CAN’T HIDE SLOPPY OHS IN THIS COURT

The matter before the Coroner’s Court in Adelaide this week relates to a tragic workplace death in April 2008 which killed Kym Charles Greenhalgh.

Mr Greenhalgh worked for a company called Pioneer Road Services and they were at the time undertaking road resurfacing work in the Adelaide Hills town of Meadows in South Australia.

It should be noted that Pioneer Road Services was acquired by the New Zealand owned company Fulton Hogan in December 2009. Premier Road Services officially changed its name to Fulton Hogan Industries Pty Ltd in May 2010 with the ABN remaining unchanged. From what we can determine, the management of PRS were integrated into a new organisational structure.

Oddly enough, we at VOID had gotten wind of this matter going to an inquest as a result of an identified unsafe workplace activity that was rather recently going on right under our noses. I know that sounds a little cryptic. I apologise for that but what it means is that business models, company names and logo’s may change, but the chore mind-set – the prioritising on basic safety principles can remain quite stagnant.

On the news of this pending inquest, immediately there is a curious need to question why. As we at VOID know only too well, coronial inquests into workplace fatalities are not something we have come to expect. They have been very few and far between.

So perhaps what happened here may shed a light.

Under the umbrella of Premier Road Services, a fatal workplace incident occurs in 2008. An investigation, as you would expect, is likely done … but one now has to wonder whether that investigation and any future prosecutions would have been in vain anyway. The following year the company is sold off. Our system is not that fast. Can you prosecute a company that no longer technically exists? Technically speaking, I don’t believe that’s possible.

This may explain why this matter has appeared in the South Australian Coroner’s Court and not in the South Australian Industrial Relations Court. Long live the Coroner’s Court I say.

Anyway, now back to that sad day in April 2008…

One of the first bits of evidence that hits you like a bulldozer relates to the maintenance of the machine directly involved in the incident. This was a piece of vehicular mobile plant called a Roller. There was evidence given suggesting there were several reports made by employees relating to problems with the steering and brakes of this roller. Were those issues ever addressed by the company? Hmmm…it’s not looking good is it?

Mr Clive Fisher (now deceased) was the operating the Roller at the time Kym Greenhalgh was shovelling gravel. There was evidence to detail that Clive Fisher had never operated this particular type of roller before that day. When he realised the machine was drifting in the wrong direction, his attempts to correct it were unsuccessful either by defective equipment or by accident. There were no brakes where Clive Fisher would normally have applied them because this Roller had no footbrakes. Ultimately his desperate attempts to stop the now out of control machine were futile.

The roller eventually came to a halt at a tree, but not before Kym Greenhalgh had lost his life.

This inquest may be yet another to show the kind of hapless training and attention to OHS detail that goes on in some workplaces in this state. Of course it was an accident. It was an accident waiting to happen.

Stay tuned.

 

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Welcome , today is Wednesday, November 22, 2017