The Court of Appeal heard the $210,000 fine and conviction initially imposed on Heavy Mechanics Pty Ltd last year was manifestly inadequate.
In June 2021 the Wodonga County Court found Heavy Mechanics guilty of a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The court heard that in August 2014, a petrol tanker serviced by the company de-coupled on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road at Staghorn Flat.
The detached trailer crossed the road and struck two cars travelling in the opposite direction, killing all three occupants including a four-year-old child.
A WorkSafe investigation found the tow-eye coupling that connected the prime mover and trailer was excessively worn and had failed under load. At the time of the incident it had been used for more than three years and 350,000 kilometres.
The court heard Heavy Mechanics had serviced the truck just days prior to the incident, including testing the tow-eye coupling, but that testing did not involve an accurate visual inspection or testing while the truck was detached from the trailer, and that this had limited the ability to inspect the parts involved.
A jury found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have conducted more accurate testing and inspections, which would have revealed the wear and tear to the coupling.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said WorkSafe would not hesitate to appeal sentences to ensure that penalties reflect the terrible human cost of ignoring safety obligations.
“This horrific incident cost three lives, including a young child, and caused untold trauma to their loved ones and community,” Dr Beer said.
“While no penalty can ever make up for this terrible loss of life, this sentence sends a strong message to duty holders using our roads that they must consider not only the potential risks to themselves and their workers, but also the potential catastrophic impacts on other road users or members of the public.”
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