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Traffic Management Could Have Prevented Triple Fatality

There was no temporary traffic management in place when three workers were fatally injured in a roadside work incident in the Bay of Plenty in early 2019.

There were also no procedures in place for assessing when, where or how temporary traffic management should be used in Higgins Contractors Limited’s roading operations when cleaning culverts.

WorkSafe’s investigation found multiple failings on behalf of the company that subsequently lead to the loss of three lives.

The company was ordered to pay a fine of $270,000 and reparation (in addition to payments already made by Higgins) totalling more than $494,611 to the families of the deceased in the Whakatane District Court last Friday.

On 26 February 2019, a road side maintenance crew were cleaning culverts on State Highway 2 on the Matata Straights when a truck travelling in the direction of the worksite, crashed into the rear of one of the work vehicles causing it to hit three of the workers, fatally injuring them.

WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions, Simon Humphries, said WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident found that Higgins had failed to ensure temporary traffic management was installed before any work activity commenced, leaving workers with no protection from oncoming traffic.

“As well as this, no standard operating procedures were provided by the company to clarify when temporary traffic management was required for culvert cleaning,” he said.

“Higgins should have provided clarity around whether shoulder or full-lane closure was required or what constituted a safe distance from the road so that temporary traffic management wasn’t required

“A lack of basic risk management has led to three fatalities, and left three families mourning the loss of loved ones. This tragic incident highlights just how important it is to always ensure risk is being appropriately managed in the workplace.

“In this instance correct traffic management plans should have been implemented before this work took place. Had they of been, these workers may not have lost their lives.”

- A fine of $270,000 was imposed

- Reparation of $494,611 was ordered.

- Higgins Contractors Limited was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

- Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, namely while undertaking roadside maintenance, did fail to comply with that duty, that failure exposing workers to a risk of death or serious injury.

- S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

- The driver of the truck which struck the worksite vehicle was sentenced to 250 hours community work, was ordered to pay $7,000 emotional harm reparation to the family of each deceased and was disqualified from driving for 21 months by New Zealand Police in relation to the incident.

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