Companies incur significant costs for damage to Sydney tunnel

Consignor and loader ordered to pay fines and compensation costs for M5 tunnel incident.


A consignor and a loader have been stung around $100,000 each for striking Sydney's M5 tunnel in November 2012.

The New South Wales Supreme Court fined metals recycler Sims and bulk materials handler Delta $3,000 and $6,000 respectively, but the figures were dwarfed by compensation sums and legal costs as a result of damage to the tunnel due to a high load.

Sims had a haulage agreement with truck-owning construction services firm Kreidies Management Group, whose combination had been loaded too high before the incident.

The court found that Sims, despite having a safety and inspection program along with a haulage contract that put Kriedies under significant road-rule compliance obligations, the contractor’s driver had been unable to gauge the height of the load.

Sims agreed it had shortcomings on loading procedures at other sites, load compaction and restraint instructions, and did not have contract conditions denying haulage payment where a default in carriage conditions occurred.

Sims NSW operations manager Rod Bonnette gave evidence that he had since organised a detailed review of relevant policies and procedures, as well as a review of the chain of responsibility arrangements in place between Sims and its transport contractors and suppliers

Bonnette had undertaken a risk assessment that identified loading hazards and resulted in the updating of relevant policies and training requirements.

As part of Sims’ ongoing training program, toolbox talks have been delivered to drivers addressing the need to: ensure that loads are not above the prescribed height; ensure that loads are secured; remove excess scrap metal from above the bin rim.

Regarding Delta, the yard of which had no load-height compliance gauge, it was agreed that its excavator driver failed to secure the load and relied on the truck driver to assess the load’s height, a job the driver was unable to do.

Delta managing director Con Petropoulos acknowledged that Delta had been responsible for "the breakdown of the chain of responsibility that led to the damage to the tunnel" and that that although Delta’s trucks were routinely measured for height compliance before leaving its yard, the trucks of third parties were not.

Delta national safety quality and environment manager Neville Williams, whose position was created in February 2014, admitted his firm’s compliance systems had lacked cohesion before his arrival.

Since then, a compliance division had been created to oversee transport operations.

Changes Delta had introduced include holding an annual conference for the purposes of discussing safety issues and implementing a registration system which records and identifies the ongoing need for staff training.

The company has also introduced audits covering maintenance management and fatigue management and developing a memorandum of understanding for all transport contractors which addresses roles and responsibilities.

Furthermore, it now has procedures requiring contractors to do all things necessary to assist Delta in discharging its legal obligations and has established an advisory group to provide strategic advice to Delta’s management on the operations of its transport division.

Remedial action included steps being taken to ensure that drivers and sub-contractors were aware of their vehicle clearance height before leaving the yard and the reinduction of the loader.

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