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The family of a Wellington driver fatally crushed while operating a glass collection truck will receive $85,000 in court-ordered reparations from Enviro Waste Services Limited (ESL).
The household refuse and recycling collection firm was sentenced in the Wellington District Court today after pleading guilty to charges under ss 18 (1)(a) and 50 (1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The company was also fined $56,250* and ordered to pay court costs.
On 3 March 2015 the victim, Junior Hunt, an employee of Enterprise Recruitment Limited who was contracted by ESL to provide a worker, began a collection run. After stopping for a collection on Upton Terrace in Wellington, the victim became trapped in-between the bin lifter and the centre pod of the truck. The bin lifter moves a bin of sorted glass to an opening on the top of the truck.
Despite efforts by a member of the public to release the bin lifter, he remained trapped until emergency services arrived. He suffered severe crush injuries and died the following evening.
A WorkSafe investigation found multiple health and safety failures. The victim had not been trained in line with the company’s training policy, and the company failed to take a number of steps to safely manage the hazard posed by the bin lifting mechanism.
ESL had been involved in the design of the glass recycling truck and in particular its bin lifting mechanism. The bin lifting mechanism on ESL’s recycling trucks had a semi-automatic function that exposed the operator to a potential crushing hazard by allowing them to be in close proximity of the bin lift during the bin lifting process. The semi-automatic function also put members of the public at potential risk as the absence of manual operation in this setting meant that drivers could leave the vicinity during the bin lifting process.
ESL employees at the Wellington branch had also noted issues with bin lifters stalling in mid-air although this was not recorded on the company’s hazard list and no actions were taken to eliminate the bin stalling hazard.
WorkSafe Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says there were many opportunities for ESL to have identified the risks from the work and to put in place safe systems to reduce the risk to its staff and contractor employees.
“The victim was a young worker, tragically taken in the prime of his life. Sadly, ESL’s failures to keep Junior Hunt safe by providing adequate training and properly managing the hazards on the recycling truck have resulted in devastating and irreversible consequences for the victim and his family.”
* Please note that at the sentencing at the Wellington District Court, a fine of $66,250 was stated by the Judge. This was an error and was later corrected by the Court to $56,250.