In brief - Employers must enforce their risk management systems
A transport company has been fined $1 million after pleading guilty to breaching section 21
of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
after it failed to maintain a safe system of work.
Stevedore crushed in horrific workplace incident in Port Melbourne
In May 2014, a stevedore worker was run over by a MAFI (a flat trailer used to carry shipping containers) on the deck of a ship at Webb Dock in Port Melbourne.
The incident occurred while the stevedore was positioning rubber mats for the MAFIs to rest on during transit up a ramp and onto the ship. A fully loaded MAFI can weigh up to 90 tonnes.
The MAFI crushed the worker, amputating his left leg, and causing other severe injuries. A forklift was used by colleagues to lift the MAFI off the worker. He later died at the scene. As stated by WorkSafe Victoria health and safety executive director Marnie Williams, the stevedore worker died "in the most horrible of circumstances…traumatising the people who tried to save him."
System to manage serious risk in place, but procedures inadequate
Judge Cannon of the Melbourne County Court found that although the transport company had a system in place to manage the serious risks associated with loading and unloading its ships, the most critically inadequate procedure was enforcing a "second pair of eyes on deck".
The company's system required a stevedore to stand near the top of the ramp to watch for pedestrians and direct the "prime movers" who are pushing or pulling the MAFIs.
However, at the time of the incident there was no such stevedore performing these duties. As a result, the MAFI was pushed unknowingly towards the now deceased worker.
Stark reminder to all employers
It is not enough for employers to have an awareness of the risks that employees face, nor simply put systems in place to manage them. Appropriate enforcement of such systems is essential.
This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2021.