The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) has been convicted and fined $475,000 following the death of a roadside assistance driver in a fatigue-related crash in 2018.
Published:16 December 2021
The RACV was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after previously pleading guilty to one charge of failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The court heard the driver was employed by YJ Auto Repairs, based at Yarra Junction, which was sub-contracted by the RACV to operate a roadside assistance service.
It was routine for YJ Auto Repairs' two roadside assistance drivers to work 96-hour on-call shifts over four days and nights.
At the time of the fatal crash, the driver had been on-call for 89 hours and had been working for 17 hours from the first call-out he received in the morning until the collision in the early hours of 10 March 2018 when he ran off the road and struck a tree at Healesville.
Evidence at the crash site indicated he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The court heard the RACV did not provide training or insist contractors trained their workers in the risks of fatigue or have a safe system of work related to fatigue.
It was reasonably practicable for the RACV to provide information to contractors about the risks of fatigue, ensure there was training in how to prevent fatigue and suggest policies and procedures to help contractors minimise the risks.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was unacceptable for workers to be pushed beyond their mental and physical limits day after day with no time to recover.
"The dangers of fatigue are well known and, as we have tragically seen in this case, managing those risks can be the difference between someone going home at the end of the day or losing their life at work," Dr Beer said.
"Having fatigue management systems in place and communicating them with workers and contractors are simple steps that could save a life."
YJ Auto Repairs Pty Ltd, the deceased driver's employer, is also facing charges over the incident and will appear in Melbourne Magistrates' Court for a committal hearing on 15 July, 2022.
To reduce the risk of fatigue employers should:
Set realistic workloads and eliminate or reduce the need to work extended hours or overtime. Schedule an adequate number of workers and other resources to do the job to avoid placing excessive demands on staff.
Appropriately schedule leave and other staff commitments such as training and ensure there is a process for managing unplanned absences.
Develop policies and procedures to identify, prevent and manage fatigue and ensure they are implemented and promoted.
The policy should include maximum daily work hours, maximum average weekly hours, and consider time of day and work-related travel.
Control overtime, shift-swapping and on-call duties.
Provide adequate breaks between shifts to allow employees enough recovery time (including travel, family time, leisure and socialising and exercise time).
Enable staff to speak up if they are feeling fatigued and unable to work without risk.