Road Maintenance Worker Killed by High-Speed Traffic

high speed road traffic safety cones

When road maintenance work was carried out on the shoulder of the F3 freeway in NSW on 10 June 2009, a vehicle trying to overtake another struck the parked truck of the road workers. Five workers were injured, and one of them subsequently died.

The employer, the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW (RTA), was charged with breach of s 10(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (NSW). The RTA pleaded guilty. It had failed to undertake a risk assessment of the maintenance work, as required according to its Traffic Control at Work Site Manual, and as a consequence failed to ensure the work site was safe. It had also failed to provide adequate information, instruction and supervision to the employees involved.

Evidence in the Industrial Court of NSW indicated that the RTA’s occupational health and safety system required specific traffic control plans for road maintenance work, as well as tool box meetings and site-specific assessments. However, in practice, the Traffic Control at Work Site Manual had not always been complied with. On the day of the accident, the warning signs to reduce the traffic speed to 60 km/h had not been put up, so the speed limit had remained at 110 km/h. The workers had relied only on the flashing yellow lights on top of their truck to warn the traffic of the work.

After the accident, the RTA issued a safety alert to employees and contractors about working near traffic. A review of all safety systems had also been undertaken and a working party had been set up to consider how to effectively reduce the risk of working near high-speed traffic.

The risk to safety had been both obvious and foreseeable. Because systems had already been set out in the manual on how to protect against it, safety measures could clearly have been taken. The court also established that the RTA had previous safety convictions, some of which involved employees being struck by vehicles during road work. As a result, the offence was serious.

The court took into account the RTA’s guilty plea, the cooperation with the investigation, the assistance provided to the injured workers and their families, and the contribution to the funeral expenses of the deceased worker. It was convicted and fined $175,000.

Inspector Walker v The Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales [2013] NSWIRComm 116 (24 December 2013)