A transport company employed an experienced heavy vehicle driver to assist them in transporting various products in rural Australia. Tasked to unload “silage bales” at 10pm – without direct light, little supervision and no proper instruction as to how to perform the job – a falling bale struck him and he died. This occurred on the day after he commenced work.
The employee did not receive any structured information, instruction, supervision or training in relation to the specific task of loading and transporting silage bales. Although they employed an experienced driver, the trucking company (Goodchild) did not provide any training related to this specific cargo. In fact, the training or supervision seemed solely to consist of an escort by another worker on the day of the incident.
When the employee attempted to loosen the cargo straps at the end of the day’s work, one of the 500kg bales fell and crushed him.
The court found that Goodchild lacked any OHS policies or procedures. A false sense of security, derived from 34 years without any prosecutions for workplace safety, resulted in information and training provided only informally.
Furthermore, Goodchild failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work – it failed to provide a safe work procedure for the task of loading and unloading silage bales, as well as providing insufficient information, instruction, supervision and training.
Goodchild pleaded guilty early, and the court ordered that the company publicize the offence, including its consequences and the penalty imposed, and that this communication should appear in newspapers circulating in country regions.
Moreover, the court set a financial penalty of $160k. However, Goodchild – as a business – lacked the money and, as it could not pay the penalty, the magistrate imposed a ‘notional’ fine and directed Goodchild to simply pay $20k compensation directly to the employee’s surviving family
Farrell v Goodchild Nominees Pty Ltd