Safe work-site road surfaces: The importance of adequate inspection records

27 November 2020

The Court found the Defendant coal mine to not be liable for failing to spot a soft spot on the road in which the Plaintiff was required to drive in the course of her duties as a dump truck operator. The Defendant successfully evidenced a comprehensive inspection routine.

In issue

  • The Court was required to consider whether the Defendant had breached its duty of care in failing to detect a soft spot on the road on which the Plaintiff was required to drive in her duties as a dump truck driver.

The background

The Plaintiff commenced proceedings after a shoulder injury resulting from an alleged work related incident. The Plaintiff operated a dump truck at the Defendant’s mine site and sustained the injury when she allegedly drove over a soft spot on the road, which she said caused the cabin to shake violently resulting in injury. The Defendant denied negligence, asserting that there was no soft spot on the road or in the alternative, the Plaintiff was driving too fast for the conditions.

The decision at trial

Adamson J determined that on the facts, the Defendant was not liable for the damages sustained during the incident. The Plaintiff was not able to successfully establish that the soft spot was present at the time of the incident. However, the Defendant was able to produce several witness statements of workers who had inspected the road at frequent intervals prior to the incident, at which times no soft spot was present. There had also been multiple instances of other vehicles travelling along the same road immediately preceding the incident – with no issues arising. Further, the Court considered the Plaintiff’s credibility to be low as she had a significantly inconsistent recount of events.

The Plaintiff was ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs of the proceedings.

Implications for you

This case demonstrates the importance of keeping records and obtaining witness statements of workers with contemporaneous knowledge of events, in relation to claims involving allegations of poorly maintained surfaces.

Kerr v Whitehaven Coal Mining Pty Ltd [2020] NSWSC 1096

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