ACT News

Kenoss blamed electrocuted driver for own death, despite alleged safety breaches

A company accused of serious safety breaches in the fatal electrocution of a truck driver tried to blame the worker and absolve itself of responsibility in an incident report written just days after the death.

Michael Booth, 48 of Gunning, was killed while delivering a load of gravel-type material to a worksite run by Kenoss Contractors on Barry Drive in March 2012 for road resurfacing.

Munir al-Hasani, former project manager at Kenoss Contractors, outside court earlier this year.
Munir al-Hasani, former project manager at Kenoss Contractors, outside court earlier this year. Photo: Matt Bedford

He took the load to a small, fenced off compound at the worksite, where other piles of material and piping lay. 

His tipper truck struck live overhead power lines, sending electricity pulsing down through the truck towards the earth.

Michael Booth, a truck driver from Gunning who died in an alleged workplace accident in 2012
Michael Booth, a truck driver from Gunning who died in an alleged workplace accident in 2012 

Mr Booth got out of the truck and collapsed. He could not be revived. 

Kenoss and project manager Munir al-Hasani are accused of a series of basic safety failings, and are currently facing prosecution in the ACT Industrial Court. 

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There were no warning signs aboutthe overhead power lines, and the electricity had not been turned off.

There were no visual warnings attached to the lines, despite poor visibility, and no spotter was used to help Mr Booth dump the load safely.

The compound where Mr Booth delivered the load was not locked and access was allegedly poorly managed. 

Yet, despite the damning allegations of safety breaches, the court heard on Tuesday that Kenoss tried to shift the blame onto Mr Booth himself in an incident report written in the days after the fatality.

Kenoss' report claimed Mr Booth failed to follow instructions not to dump material at the site, didn't follow the company's safe work practices, and may have driven forward while his tipper was still up, causing the electrocution. 

The report was signed by site foreman Lou Clarke. 

Mr Clarke said he did not remember signing the document, couldn't remember having involvement in the report, and had never seen it before.

That evidence prompted a rigorous cross-examination by prosecutor Sara Gul on Tuesday, who accused him of feigning a lack of knowledge.

She said he could not have forgotten signing such a critical document into a fatality that occurred on his watch.

Mr Clarke responded: 

"I wasn't in a good place, I probably would have signed anything."

Ms Gul accused Mr Clarke, along with potentially others, of creating the report to try and minimise the company's responsibility for Mr Booth's death.

Earlier in Mr Clarke's evidence, he said he'd told all his workers not to use the smaller compound because of the dangers posed by the power lines.

Despite that, he did not lock it up. He said that was because he had been told that another contractor was going to take it over at some point in the future. 

He also conceded he should have dismantled the compound by taking the fencing around it down.

Late on Tuesday, site engineer Sandeep Thorat was questioned by al-Hasani about a meeting with Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) and consultant Aecom, in which transferring the site to a new contractor was discussed. 

Al-Hasani said that meeting took place on March 16, before Mr Booth's death.

He has previously suggested that he would argue the site was no longer in Kenoss' control at the time of Mr Booth's death. 

But Ms Gul then called a representative from TAMS who said they had no record of a meeting with Kenoss, and that the company had not cancelled its land use permit for the compound site. Nor, he said, had a new company applied for a land use permit for the compound site.

The hearing continues before Industrial Magistrate Lorraine Walker on Friday.