|Robert George Druid-Sutton
|10 August 2014
|27th February 2018
|21(2) 21A(2) 55(1) 55(1)(b)
|19th April 2018
|Description of Breach(es)
Being a manager of the City of Armadale (a body corporate) when the City of Armadale was guilty of an offence under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and that offence occurred with the consent or connivance of, and/or was attributable to the neglect of the accused, contrary to sections 55(1), 21(2) and 21A(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (Act).
The City of Armadale (City) is a local government authority established pursuant to the Local Government Act 1995 (WA). In 2014, the City oversaw a total land area of approximately 560 square kilometres, comprised of 19 suburbs and approximately 82,267 residents (approximately 29,616 households).
Within the City’s Technical Services Directorate sits the Waste Services division which, in 2014, employed 34 full and part-time employees and 3 volunteers. The Waste Services division had responsibility for waste disposal services and landfill area for the City’s residents including in-house domestic waste collection, recyclable material collection, verge collection, the Armadale landfill, the Roleystone green waste site, and dumped rubbish collection.
As at 10 August 2014, waste material was disposed of at the landfill site located at Lot 600 Hopkinson Road, Hilbert (referred to here as the Facility, the Landfill, or the Workplace) in a semi-rural area covering an area of 30 hectares. This was accessible to the public via a gate off Hopkinson Road where members of the public travelled over a weighbridge and spoke with a weighbridge attendant who then directed them along a dirt road to various dumping areas depending on the type of waste they were dumping.
As at 10 August 2014, larger commercial vehicles with non-recyclable waste to be dumped went directly to the tip face. Smaller vehicles often with a trailer attached with waste were directed to a dumping area for general waste and recyclables (General Tipping Area), and a separate area of the Facility for dumping green waste (Green Waste Area).The Green Waste Area had one public entry point and green waste was deposited at the tip face. The tip face in the Green Waste Area was approximately 40m in length. In contrast the General Tipping Area had 18 disposal points depending on the nature of the waste to be disposed of.
The accused was the Manager of Waste Services for the City. He had been employed by the City in that role since 1999 (although previously called the Co-ordinator of Waste Services) until his retirement approximately 16 years later in 2015. He had a budget of approximately $11 million for the Waste Services division. The budget for the Landfill was approximately $2.8 million after the levy payable to the State Government was taken out.
The accused was responsible for a wide portfolio beyond the running of the Facility. He did not directly oversee the day-to-day operations of the Facility. The day-to-day operations at the Facility were overseen by a supervisor. It was the role of the Supervisor to ensure risks were identified, assessed and controlled. The Supervisor would only bring risk issues to the accused's attention if they were matters he could not himself resolve. The Supervisor did not ever raise with the accused any risk issues associated with Loaders operating in the Green Waste Area when members of the public were in the vicinity. However the accused was aware of the risk of Loaders operating around members of the public. On 16 January 2012 the accused submitted to the Council a proposal for redevelopment of the Facility which included site design and traffic management plans which had signed designated loader crossing areas and removed the need for loaders to push up in areas where the public had access. Construction of the re-designed facility had commenced in 2014 but was in the early stages of construction.
Although the accused frequently visited the Facility, he was rarely present at the Green Waste Area of the Facility. He relied on the Supervisor to oversee the operation of the Facility and to address any operational safety issues.
The Supervisor at the Landfill was responsible for organising appropriate staff training and competency programs, ensuring a high standard of workplace safety was maintained, and ensuring Occupational Safety and Health standards were adhered to at all times. The accused was responsible for signing of on any major changes or anything the Supervisor could not deal with and was ultimately responsible for safety at the Facility.
The activities of members of the public attending the Green Waste Area were more predictable than in the General Tipping Area. Attendees entered through the single publically accessible entrance point, drove to the tip face (usually with a trailer), offloaded green waste at the face of the waste area, then left. This was in contrast to activities in the General Tipping Area, where members of the public were likely to move between different areas designated for distinct waste types (eg, paper recycling, glass recycling, general waste etc), such that public movements were far less predictable. In addition the number of vehicles at the General Tipping Area was on average 4 times greater than in the Green Waste Area however the Green Waste Area was busier coming into Spring and both areas were busier towards the end of August when the tip passes ran out.
Front end loaders (Loaders) operated at the Facility in order to push waste up into piles after it was dumped by members of the public. As at 10 August 2014, the City owned two front end loaders being a Volvo L60F and Volvo L70F.
Those Loaders were operated with flashing lights and beepers when reversing. They were not equipped with reversing cameras. The Loaders had blind spots however these blind spots were nominal compared to most commercial vehicles, due to the high vantage point of the driver, surrounded by glass panels, coupled with large offset mirrors. The Loaders had better rear vision than waste trucks, pannier trucks, skid steer loaders, delivery vans and passenger vehicles with head supports.
All Loader operators were required to undertake a competency assessment performed by an external assessment body to establish their proficiency before being allowed to operate Loaders. As at 10 August 2014, the supervisor had more than 24 years' experience operating heavy machinery, and had undertaken the competency assessment.
On weekdays four employees were present in the landfill area accessible to the public. These were three landfill attendants and a loader operator. On weekends an additional landfill attendant usually worked due to an increased demand at the landfill, and either the Supervisor or one or other of the two Leading Hands were required to be in attendance to oversee operation.
As at 10 August 2014, the Green Waste Area was undivided and there was no physical barrier preventing members of the public from being in the Green Waste Area when Loaders were present and spotters were not routinely used. Rather, the risk of collision between Loaders and members of the public was managed by instructions to Loader operators prohibiting them from operating Loaders when members of the public were in the vicinity.
The practice of not physically separating the Green Waste Area, as at 10 August 2014, was consistent with Loader operations at green waste drop-off areas at several comparable Western Australian facilities including the Henderson Waste Recovery Park (City of Cockburn), the Waste Transfer Facility (City of Mandurah), Motivation Drive Green Waste Trailer Transfer area (City of Wanneroo), Coppin Road Transfer Station (Shire of Mundaring), Mathieson Road Transfer Station (Shire of Mundaring), the Wallison-Lawnbrook Road Transfer
Station (Shire of Kalamunda), and the Bayswater Waster Transfer Station. However the Red Hill site in the East Metropolitan Regional Council did employ a physical separation barrier to physically separate the green waste area in order for a loader to operate.
In October 2005 Mr Druid-Sutton on behalf of the City received a number of Improvement Notices issued by WorkSafe for the Facility. The first Improvement Notice 81600634 was issued in relation to “Management of vehicles and moving plant – tipping area”. This stated “as an employer at the workplace you have not ensured that the movement of vehicles and plant at the workplace is managed in a way that minimises the risk of injury to pedestrians and persons operating vehicles. I.e. there is no means of restricting pedestrian access to the main tipping area for example persons walking in the vicinity of the tipping area whilst the front end loader is in operation”.
The second Improvement Notice 81600633 was issued in relation to “Management of vehicles at workplace – recycle area”. This stated “as an employer at the workplace you have not ensured that the movement of vehicles at the workplace is managed in a way that minimises the risks of injury to pedestrian and persons operating vehicles. i.e. There will be vehicles arriving and departing, loading and unloading and pedestrian movement at the workplace and it is not clear which way the traffic should flow and where the loading and unloading zone is located.”
Both these Improvement Notices directed the employer to “ensure that the movement of vehicles and plant at the workplace is managed in a way that minimises the risk of injury to pedestrians and persons operating vehicles. Refer to the guidance note safe movement of vehicles at workplaces.
Also on that date a copy of the WorkSafe Guidance Note “Safe Movement of Vehicles at Workplaces” was provided to Mr Druid-Sutton on behalf of the City.
The accused prepared a Memorandum dated 18 November 2005 to Landfill Site Staff entitled "Management of loader when working in public areas" which directed: "At no time shall the loader operate in public areas with the public present other than loading or unloading specific vehicles. Where possible areas shall be cleared at times when the public are not present. If an area is to be cleared of waste during normal operating hours the public shall be prevented from entering the area by barriers or by tip personnel" (2005 Directive). The 2005 Directive was concerned with Loader operations in every public area including the Green Waste Area.
The Supervisor understood that Loader operations were not to be carried out when members of the public were in the vicinity.
Operating procedures were communicated to new employees in a direct manner rather than through documents. The Supervisor’s practice was to "take them out physically and show them". During inductions the Supervisor’s practice was to walk the new employee around the site and point out hazards and safety issues. In the case of a plant operator, he would instruct the new employee that when working in the Green Waste Area, they must not work while members of the public were offloading but wait for everyone to leave. The accused expected that the Supervisor was appropriately inducting new employees in safe operating practices in accordance with his position description. However the induction checklist did not make specific reference to any formal SWP’s or mobile plant and pedestrian hazards as such the accused could not be sure about what information was being passed on.
On 29th April 2006 a front end loader reversed into a City employee’s vehicle at the Workplace. The employee was standing near his vehicle and received bruises and cuts to his back and left arm. One of the recommendations written by the City in conjunction with Mr Sutton was for Safe Work Procedures to be reinforced and that all employees at the Workplace will be required to sign that they have read and understood the procedures.
On 6 March 2008, a Waste Administrative Officer and Safety Representative prepared a Job Safety Analysis in consultation with a Leading Hand for the task of 'Operating a Loader – Pushing Up Waste'. That JSA, which applied to all instances of pushing up waste, including in the Green Waste Area, identified the potential hazard of hitting vehicles or people and identified the Risk Control of "Ensure no people/ vehicles are in working area, ensure flashing light is engaged". As at 10 August 2014, that JSA was located in a file labelled 'JSA's' in the Supervisor’s office at the Facility.
As at 10 August 2014, the managers and employees at the Facility had some safety knowledge but most of the staff did not know of the 2005 Directive or the 2008 JSA and did not know of any formal procedure about operating the loaders around the public.
In the 15 years of operation prior to 10 August 2014, there had never been an occasion on which a Loader had made contact with anyone or anything in the Green Waste Area.
Since March 2012, a process was in place by which a safety inspection of Facility was to be carried out quarterly by the Supervisor and/or the Employee Safety Representative to identify safety and health risks. The procedure required that identified issues that could not be corrected immediately were to be subject of consultation between the Supervisor and the Safety Representative to determine the action to be taken, and who would be responsible for that action. The completed safety inspection report was to be tabled at each Occupational Safety and Health Committee Meeting where if necessary identified issues could be escalated. The operations at the Green Waste Area were never identified as a safety risk, nor was it identified that Loaders were operating in the vicinity of members of the public contrary to the 2005 Directive, despite those inspections including the Green Waste Area.
On 11 July 2012 a front end loader reversed into a City truck at the Facility near the recycle bins in the General Tipping Area that the public only occasionally used. The recommendations arising from this accident included separating the loader from any other traffic at the rear of the recycle bins and the provision of signage stating “No Entry – Loader Operating Area".
It is common knowledge that if a front end loader collides with a person serious injury or death is likely to occur.
The Operators manual for the Volvo Loaders which were in use at the Facility and with which the Loader operators were familiar, included the hazard of blind spots when reversing and basic work procedures to follow when operating them, including maintaining a 7m operating distance.
It was known by the accused’s loader operators at the Facility that the loaders had blind spots when reversing.
Unbeknown to the accused, prior to August 2014 the 2005 Directive and JSAs previously put in place to manage the separation of pedestrians and vehicles from the front end loaders at the Green Waste Area were not being enforced or practised by the Facility Supervisor. In August 2014 there were no barriers in use and spotters were not being used in the Green Waste Area. Facility staff employed in August 2014 had not been trained about either the use of spotters or physical barriers. Loader operators generally tried to operate the loaders when members of the public were not present however this was not always possible.
Closed circuit television footage from the Workplace shows the loader being operated within close proximity of members of the public and vehicles on multiple occasions including on 1 August 2014, 2 August 2014, and 6 August 2014.
Events of 10 August 2014 On Sunday 10 August 2014, the landfill was open to the public and a number of employees were at the Workplace, in the following capacities:
The Supervisor was operating theVolvoL60F front end loader (the Loader) plant number P554. The loader was fitted with a reversing beeper which was operating.
During the morning of 10 August 2014 several members of the public attended the workplace in order to drop off waste. The landfill was particularly busy this morning. These members of the public included the victim.
At approximately 11.30 a.m. the victim arrived at the Facility with green waste and was directed to follow the signs to the Green Waste Area. The victim was driving a white four wheel drive with trailer attached. He reversed his vehicle and trailer up to the green waste pile.
The supervisor was operating the Loader at the Green Waste Area pushing up green waste onto the green waste pile. He had started pushing up waste from the eastern side of the heap and was working his way towards the western end. There were a number of other vehicles present in the green waste area in which the loader was operating. The victim entered the Green Waste area and the supervisor ceased operating the Loader for a short period of time and waited for the victim to leave. There was no spotter present and no physical separation between the Loader and members of the public.
The victim was parked at the far western end of the green waste pile and closest to the mulch pickup area.
After the victim had finished unloading most of his trailer he moved the vehicle and trailer forward approximately 11m in order to sweep it out and put the tailgate back on the trailer.
The supervisor who was operating the Loader saw the victim moving his vehicle and assumed the victim had left as he did not see the victim in the Loader mirrors (although the victim or his vehicle ought to have been visible in the rear view mirrors). The supervisor considered the area to be clear and so reversed the Loader backwards.
The victim who had only moved his vehicle forward rather than departing the area started to put his tailgate back on his trailer when the Loader struck him from behind. The right rear wheel of the Loader ran over the victim’s right foot and up his left leg. Upon hearing shouts from members of the public the Loader stopped and drove forward off the victim’s left leg and over his right foot.
Upon hearing the shouts two landfill attendants turned the camera on the CCTV to face the green waste area and observed the commotion.
An ambulance was called and the victim was transported to Royal Perth Hospital where he received treatment.
The victim suffered multiple injuries, including a deep perianal laceration extending to his rectum which required a stoma bag; comminute traverse fracture of his right 2nd and 3rd metatarsals (right foot); Left knee meniscal tear; and left side cuboid fracture (left foot).
The victim has had to undergo several operations and extensive wound management at Royal Perth Hospital. He is now under the care of Armadale Hospital. The Victim suffers from chronic pain and depression as a result of the injuries and has been unable to work since the incident.
Consent or Neglect
The accused knew there was no Safe Work Procedure (SWP) for the operation of Loaders at the Workplace whilst it was open to members of the public which mandated the use of spotters in the Green Waste Area and separated the area in which Loaders operated from public access by physical barriers and signs.
The accused did not have reversing cameras fitted to the rear of the Loaders.
The accused neglected to ensure that training was provided to each of the employees at the Workplace who may operate a Loader or provide spotter duties which included the role of each in relation to the SWP, relying instead on the Loader operators' externally assessed competency and the Supervisor's practice described in the paragraphs above.
The accused did not ensure that the Supervisor at the Workplace:
After this incident
Reversing cameras were fitted to the two City of Armadale loaders operating at the Armadale Landfill at a total cost of $1,760.
Water fillable barriers were hired from Coates Hire to separate the Green Waste Area into two areas, so one area can be barricaded and cleared whilst the other remains open to the public.
Signs stating “Danger. No Entry. Area Closed for Clearing” were also obtained and are now used, along with the barriers.
A Safe Work Procedure entitled: “Barricading of Tipping Area for Clearing of all Waste” was updated and is enforced. This stipulates that a number of actions are required for the safety of members of the public. They include the following:
Using a spotter with a hand held 2 way radio, giving direct communication between the spotter and the Loader operator, to ensure that the Loader is not being operated unless the barricading is in place and no vehicles or pedestrians are in the barricaded area.
The Accused entered a guilty plea on the 27 February 2018 and was convicted. On the 19 April 2018, the Magistrate fined the Accused $12,500 and ordered costs of 4950.00.
|Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Armadale
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