Fatality and $200k fine highlight public liability risks

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A company has been convicted and fined $200,000 for its risk management failings after one of its vehicles killed a passer-by as it was reversing, highlighting the importance of managing public liability risks.

The trolley collection company’s vehicle ran over the elderly man while reversing at a shopping centre loading dock, said a statement from WorkSafe Victoria.

The company responsible, Kakos Trolley Services Pty Ltd, was taken to the County Court, and pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to ensure so far as reasonably practicable that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer.

The court heard how a shopping trolley collection car and trailer, which reversed over the elderly man, did not have a warning beeper, flashing lights or rear view camera that might have alerted the driver –  failing that were revealed by a WorkSafe investigation.   

The incident happened in November 2008 when two Kakos employees had just finished unloading trolleys from the vehicle’s trailer at a Southland Shopping Centre loading dock, which was used by workers and customers.

The workers were reversing the shopping trolley collection vehicle out of the loading dock when it struck the man who was rushed to hospital, placed on life support, but died three days later.

It also found the driver’s view was blocked when the ramps on the back of the trailer were raised.

The court heard that after the incident, Kakos made a range of safety improvements, including installing reversing beepers and cameras to all of their vehicles.

Judge Gullaci convicted the company and fined it $200,000, saying general deterrence was an important factor in sentencing.

WorkSafe’s acting General Manager for health and safety operations, Jarrod Edwards, said the prosecution highlighted the dangers of vehicles colliding with pedestrians. 

“Where it is not an option to ensure pedestrians and vehicles are fully separated, it is essential that appropriate warning systems are in place to minimise the risk of collision,” he said.

“This incident was a tragedy for the man who was going about his business, and for his family.”

“Businesses must do all they can to reduce the risk of a collision, ideally by physically separating pedestrians and plant that is moving about.”

“Ensuring a traffic management plan is in place, equipping vehicles with safety measures such as reversing beepers and considering the use of a trained ‘spotter’ are just some of the ways collisions can be prevented.”

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