SAE Investments Pty Ltd trading as Blue Heeler Bins is based in Engadine and carries out waste removal, mainly in the Sutherland Shire.
This involved skip bin delivery and retrieval, and sorting and disposal of waste and recyclables at council and privately-owned facilities.
On 17 September 2007 at Yowie Bay, a 33-year-old truck driver and bin lift operator was packing up the vehicle’s stabiliser legs, which hold the truck in position, after completing a skip bin change-over on a very steep driveway at a construction site.
The hydraulic brakes on the vehicle gave way and the truck slid uncontrollably down the hill crushing the worker against a fence.
The worker sustained a laceration to his liver, and deep cuts to the right shoulder and scapula which also severed a right ulnar nerve.
He also sustained fractured ribs, pulmonary contusions, and fractures around his right knee as well as lacerations and abrasions to the face, arms, abdomen and legs.
The injuries meant he could not work for approximately eight months after the incident.
A WorkCover investigation found the employee was working in unsafe conditions and that an incident was foreseeable and preventable.
Only one chock, instead of two, had been used to help the hydraulics keep the truck stationary on the steep incline.
The in-cabin controls for lifting the skip loader were not operational and the driver was required to exit the vehicle and use the external controls. Had they been working he would not have had to exit the cabin.
The company and its director knew the in-cabin hydraulic controls were not operational, and the driver, although experienced, had not been adequately trained.
No formal site inspection or risk assessment had been carried out.
SAE Investments Pty Ltd, and its director Scott Edwards were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000.
They pleaded guilty and the company was fined $80,000 and the director fined $3000.
WorkCover NSW’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said the risks to the employee’s safety were entirely foreseeable.
“Without proper maintenance of equipment and awareness of serious risks and their appropriate controls, employees will always be at risk regardless of their amount of experience,” Mr Watson said.
“The steps that should have been taken were not only simple, but they were well-known safety practices in the industry.
“WorkCover always tries to work with businesses to improve safety and will only begin prosecution proceedings in the most serious cases.
“The company and its director have co-operated with WorkCover and since this incident have taken steps to improve safety, including improved protocols applying to the use of its vehicles,” Mr Watson said.
Work Cover Authority of NSW