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Canberra Contractors fined $82,500 for building site death of Wayne Vickery

A construction company has been fined $82,500 for the death of a worker who was struck by a reversing road grader at a Macgregor building site in 2011.

Justice John Burns described the death of Wayne Vickery, 45, as tragic and avoidable as he sentenced Canberra Contractors in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday morning.

The penalty came four years and 44 days after the accident and prompted Mr Vickery's widow Fiona to call for an urgent overhaul of the court system, describing the legal process as "unnecessarily protracted and arduous".

Mr Vickery, of Yass, was killed instantly while he was acting as a grade checker and had crouched down behind the heavy grader to check ground levels for a road in a new residential housing estate.

Canberra Contractors pleaded guilty to a charge of negligently failing to comply with a safety duty, exposing someone to a substantial risk of serious harm.

Court documents alleged the company had failed to provide a safe workplace, safe systems of work, and appropriate information, instruction, training or supervision to workers.


In handing down his sentence, Mr Burns said Mr Vickery's death was tragic and could have been avoided if work safety protocols and rules put in place by the company were adhered to by individuals on the day.

Mr Burns said the vehicle's driver and Mr Vickery had failed to comply with those protocols as Mr Vickery was behind the grader as it operated and neither worker made eye contact before the vehicle began to reverse.

He accepted the company previously had a good safety record and said evidence suggested it took work health and safety matters seriously.

"The evidence reveals a high degree of negligence for a short amount of time," he said.

He took into account financial assistance and support the company had provided to Mr Vickery's family, saying it showed remorse, and factored in significant delays in the case being heard.

Mr Burns said no penalty imposed by the court could make up for Mr Vickery's death. He recorded a conviction and fined the company $82,500.

Canberra Contractors managing director Paul Macor said he felt the sentence was fair: "We'll take it on board and go from there. 

"The systems were always in place, it's just up to the employee to maintain those systems."

 ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said the fine was "inadequate" and ultimately it was an employer's responsibility to maintain safe work conditions. 

"The prosecution made clear the inadequacies in the work practices and I think they warranted a stronger penalty," he said. 

He acknowledged the accident took place weeks before tougher work health and safety laws came into place at the start of 2012. 

In a statement, Mrs Vickery said the court process surrounding the accident seemed to be unnecessarily protracted and arduous and noted the coroner was yet to hand down her findings. 

She described the judicial process as "inefficient and expensive".

Mrs Vickery also questioned the ACT government's progress on the 28 agreed upon recommendations from the 2012 Getting Home Safely Report on construction industry safety.

"All those directly and indirectly impacted by Wayne's death four years and 44 days ago are still waiting."

Workplace Safety Minister Mick Gentleman said work safety results in the construction industry improved dramatically in the year after that report was issued, and he would continue to work with the industry to lower the ACT's serious injury rate.

He said 15 of the report's recommendations that were mostly the government's responsibility had been substantially completed or were under way. 

"Improving safety in the construction industry remains a major concern for government, and significant resources have been invested in helping industry to improve its performance," he said.