Road rollers 'inherently unsafe'

Last updated 15:48 11/09/2012

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The ‘‘inherently unsafe’’ method of using road rollers should be remedied, says a coroner who investigated the death of a worker hit by one of the vehicles.

Kym Charles Greenhalgh, 50, died of multiple injuries in April 2008 when he was struck by a roller as he was spray-sealing a road near Meadows, south of Adelaide.

South Australian coroner Mark Johns on Tuesday described the death as ‘‘a tragic accident’’ involving human error by Clive Fisher, the roller driver who was reversing the vehicle at the time.

Fisher, who was ‘‘universally acknowledged as a particularly careful and safety-conscious worker", has since died.

Greenhalgh was hit by the roller, which had been following a truck he was walking behind as he identified and filled in patches in the newly-laid surface.

The coroner recommended that state and federal transport, infrastructure, and industrial relation ministers consider a strategy for overcoming the ‘‘inherently unsafe’’ method of operation of rollers.

Johns noted the rollers are driven in reverse while they are  travelling in a forward direction.

‘‘In my opinion it is extremely unsatisfactory that any worker should be required to spend half of his working day twisted in an attitude which enables him to see over his shoulder while operating a heavy vehicle such as a multi roller,’’ the coroner said.

‘‘On any view it is reasonable to assume that had Fisher been driving the roller in a forward direction as he approached the truck, he would have been most unlikely to have made the steering errors which he did make.

‘‘I consider it would be very tiring to drive a roller in reverse for lengthy periods of time and to maintain a proper lookout by twisting and looking over the shoulder.’’

The evidence suggested that, for technical reasons relating to new surfaces, it was not feasible to manoeuvre rollers to enable them to turn around at the end of each pass, the coroner said.

‘‘If that be so, then it should be possible to implement machine designs that would enable an operator to be facing in a forward position while the vehicle is in fact reversing.’’

Johns said he could not accept that the current unsatisfactory method was the only way in which a road surface could be properly compacted.

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