Mainfreight fined over death while unloading

Last updated 05:00 01/09/2012

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A transport company was yesterday fined $48,000 and ordered to put money into a trust for the children of an employee killed while unloading freight from a truck and trailer in Invercargill.

Mainfreight Ltd was yesterday sentenced by Judge Dominic Flatley in Invercargill District Court for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employee Stephen Michael Palfrey.

The company was fined $48,000 and ordered to pay $200,000 reparation, which included $140,000 already paid, and $15,000 for each of his four children to be held in a trust by the company until they each turned 21.

Mr Palfrey died in November last year after a 5-metre-long, 312kg steel bar fell from the trailer he was unloading and pinned him to the ground at the Mainfreight Transport Ltd yard in Spey St.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment lawyer Saar Cohen-Ronen said the trucking industry was a hazardous industry and unloading a truck was dangerous.

There were five areas where the company failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees, he said.

These included a lack of clear documented policy and applied procedures on safely unloading mezzanine floors on B-trains, failure to have clear documented policies for the safe conduct of all employees working around where forklifts are operating, training, packaging of the steel bar and the processes of loading and unloading from the same side.

After the incident, the company's reaction was exemplary and exceptional and included a full and frank investigation report of its own, he said.

Mainfreight's lawyer, Peter Davey, said this was the company's only workplace fatality since it commenced business in 1978.

The company accepted it made mistakes, took responsibility for what occurred and apologised to the family, he said.

Judge Flatley said he hoped the sentencing brought some closure for Mr Palfrey's wife and four children, aged 9, 6, 4, and 16 months.

"This was a tragic event . . . his death should not have happened."

The company had provided considerable financial support to the family and had met Mr Palfrey's funeral costs, he said.

They were clearly remorseful and had fully co-operated with remedial action.

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