Fines of $960,000 for two workplace deaths

·3-min read

Two companies have been fined $900,000 after the separate Sydney workplace deaths of two employees struck by reversing vehicles.

Girishanth Singarajah, a Sri Lankan national of Tamil descent in Australia as a refugee, died when a front-end loader reversed over him as he was picking and sorting through waste piles by hand.

He was working for Aussie Skips Recycling Pty Ltd at an industrial estate in South Strathfield on May 24, 2018.

Ian Marlow, a 42-year-old truck driver, was crushed to death by a reversing reach stacker weighing over 70 tonnes.

He was working for Mondiale VGL Pty Ltd (previously known as Visa Global Logistics Pty Ltd) at its Banksmeadow site on November 29, 2018.

In separate judgments in the NSW District Court on Thursday, Judge David Russell convicted both companies of failing to comply with their duty under the Work Health and Safety Act.

He also convicted the general manager of Aussie Skips, Emmanuel Roussakis, who had pleaded guilty as had the two companies.

The judge fined Aussie Skips $525,000; Mr Roussakis $60,000 and Mondiale $375,000.

He said Aussie Skips did not have in place adequate precautions in relation to readily foreseeable collisions between pedestrians and heavy machinery.

"The likelihood of the risk occurring was high," he said.

"The pickers had to work in a space where up to 150 heavy vehicles a day were entering the site, dumping waste, and leaving the site.

"In addition, heavy machinery, including the front-end loader involved in the incident, operated continuously in the yard where the pickers worked on foot."

The judge said it was never enough to say to workers, in effect: "Watch out for yourself".

"The CCTV shows that Mr Singarajah saw the front-end loader reversing towards him and he tried to get out of its way.

"There was only six seconds between the loader starting to reverse and it running over the victim."

The company later took actions including translating the induction booklet into Tamil and Arabic, and requiring everyone to wear hi-vis clothing at all times in the yard.

Aussie Skips management also provided financial, administrative and emotional support to Mr Singarajah's family.

"This included visiting Mr Singarajah's family in Sri Lanka and offering to make a contribution to Mr Singarajah's community."

Mr Marlow was standing at the rear of a trailer when he was struck and crushed by the reach stacker, which was reversing while carrying a container.

Mondiale, which provided services including freight forwarding, storage and customs clearance, knew of the risk which was obvious and highly foreseeable, the judge said.

"There were many movements of heavy vehicles at the site.," he said.

"Every time a truck came onto the site to be loaded with a container, there was proximity between the truck and the stacker.

"Every container had to be pinned manually to the trailer of the truck, which involved the driver being out of the truck and potentially being close to the reach stacker, as happened in the present incident.

"The evidence shows that the occasional presence of workers and heavy machinery being in the same area had developed over time but had not been noticed or prohibited."

Since the death, the company had implemented actions including repainting markings in the yard directing unauthorised persons not to enter the container the container hardstand area.

"After the incident Mondiale provided financial support to Mr Marlow's family.

"Mondiale has held memorials on the anniversary of Mr Marlow's death for the past two years and has introduced the "Ian Marlow Award" for driver achievement."

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