Businesses have an obligation to keep people safe around vehicles in the workplace, says WorkSafe New Zealand following the sentencing of a Southland business
McLellan Freight Limited was contracted to load and unload palm kernel extract at a warehouse leased from South Port in Bluff. In turn, McLellan Freight contracted trucks and drivers from Transport Services Southland Limited and Herberts Transport Limited.
One of those drivers was standing behind his truck when he was struck and killed, as another driver was reversing a front-end loader in February 2017.
“Clear separation of workers and moving vehicles is an absolute must in workplaces. Designated safe zones for people, alongside bollards or barriers to control the traffic flow are cost-effective ways to keep safe,” says WorkSafe’s acting national manager of investigations, Catalijne Pille.
A WorkSafe investigation found McLellan Freight should have had a more effective system in place for traffic management and should have consulted with the other trucking firms it worked with to manage the risks.
“Too much emphasis was placed on workers being vigilant, as opposed to businesses managing risks by preventing dangerous situations for workers. More could and should have been done by way of traffic management to ensure a safe system of work,” says Catalijne Pille.
Several measures could have reduced the risk of harm. These include:
- having a dedicated spotter to help guide the driver at all times;
- a stop line or safety cone so drivers know exactly where to stop;
- use of a reversing camera on the loader;
- use of proximity sensors;
- use of blue light indicators on vehicles as appropriate
Following a judge-alone trial in June 2023, McLellan Freight was found guilty of health and safety failures.
Transport Services Southland Limited and Herberts Transport Limited pleaded guilty and were sentenced in October 2022 for their involvement.
- McLellan Freight Limited was sentenced at Invercargill District Court on 16 November 2023.
- A fine of $577,500 was imposed, and reparations of $115,896 ordered
- McLellan Freight was charged under sections 34(1) and 2(b), 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:
- being a PCBU, failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for Transport Services Southland Limited while he was at work in the business or undertaking and that failure exposed [the victim]to a risk of serious injury arising from vehicles used while loading and unloading palm kernel expeller.
- Being a PCBU who had a duty in relation to workers undertaking the loading, unloading, and transportation of palm kernel expeller at ADM New Zealand Ltd’s facility, failed to, so far as was reasonably practicable, consult, co-operate with, and co-ordinate activities with all other PCBUs who had a duty in relation to the same matter.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.