Shipping giant Toll given record $1m fine for Melbourne waterfront tragedy

Shipping giant Toll has been convicted and fined a massive $1 million for safety failures after a father-of-three was crushed and killed on Melbourne's wharves.

Toll employee Anthony Attard, 42, was helping load cargo onto a ship at Webb Dock in May 2014 when he was run over by a trailer and crushed to death under its wheels. Another worker was badly injured in the accident and had to have a leg amputated.

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Anthony Attard, who was killed at work in 2014. Photo: Supplied

 

Colleagues used a forklift to pull the trailer off the pair, but Mr Attard could not be revived.

"It was a catastrophic failure that led to a worker dying in the most horrible of circumstances ... traumatising all the people who tried so hard to save him," WorkSafe health and safety director Marnie Williams said.

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Toll pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe systems of work. Photo: Nicolas Walker

 

A subsequent investigation by the workplace safety watchdog revealed inadequate safety procedures to protect staff moving shipping container trailers, which can weigh up to 90 tonnes, on and off Toll's vessels.

Toll pleaded guilty in the County Court to the criminal charge of failing to provide safe systems of work, and this week was fined $1 million. The penalty is the largest ever handed down by a Victorian court for an offence under workplace health and safety laws.

Mr Attard's brother, James Attard, said "no money, no penalty will bring him back or make us feel better". "Yes, it's a record fine, but for a big company like Toll, what's a million dollars?" he said. "We still have to live with this for the rest of our lives."

Maritime Union of Australia assistant state secretary Robert Patchett said Anthony Attard, known for his "boyish, cheeky grin", was the most respected and loved member of the Melbourne workforce.

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Toll boss Brian Kruger. Photo: Luis Ascui

"His nickname was 'Hollywood', because if someone goes to the States, everyone goes there. Everyone went to him. Everyone trusted him.

 "We've got a photo of him in the lunch room where he used to sit every day," he said. "That's how much he was loved."

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The court heard Mr Attard was working on the deck of the Tasmanian Achiever, placing rubber mats for trailers rolling on and off the vessel.

A worker driving a prime mover that was carrying a trailer did not see him, and ran him over.

The investigation found a key safety procedure – having a fellow stevedore on deck to assist with moving mats, directing prime movers and watching for pedestrians – was not being followed, and there was no one in position at the time.

WorkSafe officials said the record $1 million fine reflected the "horrifying failure" of the company to look after the safety of its employees.

"Toll had a system in place to manage the serious risks associated with loading and unloading its ships, but some of its procedures were inadequate and the most critical part of all – having a second pair of eyes on the deck – was not enforced," Ms Williams said.

"Toll knew the risks its employees faced ... but failed to manage them appropriately."

On Tuesday, Toll Group managing director Brian Kruger said the company deeply regretted the incident that led to Mr Attard's death.

"We acknowledge the pain and loss this has caused to his family, friends and co-workers," he said. "Personally, and on behalf of the company, we again extend our sincerest condolences to Anthony's family."

Mr Kruger said the company had since implemented safety improvements to "ensure we reduce the risk of anything like this ever happening again".

The case was the latest to draw attention to the industrial dangers on the waterfront and the distressingly high death rates among Australia's wharf workers.

An analysis of national statistics by the Maritime Union of Australia has calculated the death rate per 100,000 workers to be equal to 14.3 per year, more than 10 times higher on the wharves than in any other workplace, and more than double that of permanent members of the Australian Army.

"Anthony, like the many others that have given their lives at work, is a stark reminder that stevedoring remains one of the most dangerous industries in Australia," assistant union secretary Warren Smith said at the one-year anniversary memorial of Mr Attard's death.

Mr Attard's brother, James, worked alongside him at the wharves, and said he was "one of the most careful guys there".

"When I started, he told me, 'Have eyes at the back of your head, and keep a look out,' " he said. "Working with heavy machinery every day, it's dangerous. Safety should be No. 1, no matter where you work.

 

DECEMBER 14 2016 - 6:53PM

By Nick Toscano

This article was originally posted by The Age and is also available here