HE SAID “THEY WERE RIGHT UP THERE”

CORONERS COURT REPORT

“They were right up there…”

That was the answer given by Mr Hawkins at the Coroner’s Inquest yesterday when asked a question about Premier Road Services attitude toward Occupational Health and Safety at the time Kym Greenhalgh was killed.

The court heard that there had been numerous ‘Fault Reports’ made on this particular multi-tyre Roller (Dynapac DM83). Some of these fault reports appeared to have been made a month or so prior to the incident but there had been more recent complaints raised about the steering of the DM83 on the 23rd and 31st of March 2008 – remembering that Kym Greenhalgh died on the 1st April 2008.

I will admit to being a little ‘gobsmacked’ when listening to the problems being encountered with the DM83.

Aside from the mention of this Roller requiring ‘feathering’ or a consistent correction to drive it straight, another steering difficulty that was being discussed was an intermittent problem where there was no reaction when the steering wheel of the DM83 was rotated 360º.

There were many references made about the ‘dead man’s plate’. It’s referred to as a dead man’s plate because it is a safety feature. The safety plate was approximately a foot square and is located on the floor in front of the driver. It is called a safety feature because the roller operator needs to maintain pressure on that safety plate in order to keep the machine moving. So it stands to reason, when pressure is removed, the Dynapac Roller comes to an abrupt halt.

The foreman (and a current employee with Futon Hogan) expressed frustration at this feature. He said that if you took your feet off the plate the thing would “hit the skids and tear up the road…”

We heard again that the driver on that fateful day, Clive Fisher had not driven this particular Roller, the DM83 before. We heard again that other Rollers in the fleet had different safety switches. It was only the Dynapac rollers that had the safety plate on the floor. There was mention of other machines that had safety switches on the seat which means if you lift your bum, the machine stops. Other machines in the fleet utilised an extra lever at the hand control. These safety levers require the two levers to be held together in order for the machine to move. Oh and it’s worth mentioning that we also heard evidence that it was not unusual for drivers to tape those levers together. Kind of defeats the purpose, but there you go.

There was further discussion on the DM83 being subject to hindrance in that rubble and debris would lodge in and around the safety plate and that it did not working reliably. It was fairly evident that the safety plate was considered a royal pain in the rear. “These rollers are designed by people who don’t drive them…” That may be true but I couldn’t help but think about the irony of that. Does the company that purchases a machine not utilise its in-house experience when deciding on a purchase?

The court heard evidence that the roller was making a loud noise not long before Kym Greenhalgh was struck and killed. There was evidence to suggest he was attempting to shift from forward to reverse but perhaps not as smoothly as one might expect. The Foreman gave evidence of seeing Clive Fisher (the driver of the roller) just prior to the incident with his backside off the seat, leaning forward with his hands on the controls.

Thinking about that for a moment. I was now picturing Clive Fisher on the roller and wondered if the machine wasn’t steering or behaving as it should (whether it be due to mechanical fault or not), is it feasible to think that he may have become panicked and was now second guessing himself? Was he now upright because he thought the safety switch was on the seat? I don’t know whether that may have been the case or not. Just made me wonder…

Clive Fisher is now deceased of course. He’d evidently been ill for some time prior to this incident and certainly he is not able to give evidence at this inquest which is a shame because the idea of the dead guy being the fall guy is really sickening to me.

Anyway moving along, we heard that Clive Fisher had been with the company for some time but that he was essentially a ‘yardie’ – that means his work was at the depot and not generally out on the road with the crews. As a matter of fact, the court was told, “You’d be lucky to see Cabs (Fisher) on a crew once or twice a year…”

The witness at this time was explaining that, generally speaking, operating the ‘roller’ was one of those jobs left for the “the new guys”. That comment possibly was intended to give the impression that it was a fairly simple and basic job. That struck a chord – they said that too about the Horizontal Borer.

We heard evidence given about the consistency of maintaining safety rules. Questions relating to filling out ‘log books’ and how consistently that rule was followed – “mostly”. Then a question about the horn being tooted when the machines move into reverse or near people – again ‘mostly’ and on clarification, “it doesn’t always happen”.

Then later in the day the evidence from a worker on site that day that is not currently employed by the company (Futun Hogan) and was at the time working on the crew at Meadows as a contract employee through labour hire.

His evidence offered stark contrast to the previous witnesses that day.

Astoundingly we heard about the induction process whereby he and another workmate starting at the same time were given an OHS Questionnaire. It was a 2 page document. The prospective employees were given page 1 to fill in but page 2 was not sighted. The reasons given were that ‘Sean’ (the person giving the induction) was going to fill in the rest. The witness gave evidence that he was asked to sign off on the document despite never having laid eyes on the 2nd page. Reason’s given as to why page 2 of the document could not be filled in was that “we weren’t sure of the answers”.

This witness commented that the DM83 was a piece of plant that he didn’t like to operate. He had previous to this day made complaints about the on-off switch being broken and problems with the safety plate. There was further mention of the vehicle log book and that it had ‘disappeared’.

Sorry…did I hear that right? That this company had an occupational health and safety attitude that was ‘right up there’? Spoken like a true company man.

By the way, where exactly is ‘up there’?

Is that the land of make believe?

 

 

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Welcome , today is Sunday, September 24, 2017