ACT News

Litany of safety failings alleged in Wayne Vickery's death

Prosecutors allege safety failings led to fatal grader accident on construction site two weeks before Christmas.

Prosecutors have alleged a litany of safety failings were behind the fatal accident that saw Wayne Vickery struck by a reversing grader on a Macgregor construction site.

But the company accused of recklessly causing serious harm to their worker is set to fight the charges in the ACT Supreme Court, in what is understood to be the first case of its type to go to trial in the higher court.

Jay, Wayne, Skye and Fiona Vickery at their Yass home. Wayne died in a construction site incident in 2011.
Jay, Wayne, Skye and Fiona Vickery at their Yass home. Wayne died in a construction site incident in 2011. 

Construction veteran Wayne Vickery, 45 of Yass, was killed while working on a West Macgregor worksite, less than two weeks before Christmas in 2011.

He was checking the ground levels to help construct roads in a new residential housing estate.

Mr Vickery had crouched down to conduct a check, when the grader began reversing towards him.

Other colleagues shouted out to warn him, but they could not be heard. 

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The grader knocked Mr Vickery over, causing fatal injuries.

Now, his employer Canberra Contractors Pty Ltd is facing criminal charges over the worksite incident, the most serious of which carries a seven-year maximum prison term, a $1.1 million fine, or both. 

The company has been charged with failing to comply with a safety duty and recklessly causing serious harm. It is also facing an alternative charge of negligently causing harm to Mr Vickery. 

It has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was committed for trial on Monday by Chief Magistrate and Industrial Magistrate Lorraine Walker in the ACT Industrial Court.

The prosecution, represented by Sara Gul, alleges a series of safety failings by the company.

It is alleged there was an absence of clear and effective communication at the construction site on the day of Mr Vickery's death, including a lack of radios and hand signals.

There was allegedly no foreman who communicated with the grader operator, no prohibition on level checking activities being carried out behind the grader, and no on-site supervisor, spotters or observers.

The company is also accused of failing to use safe work distances, barriers or exclusion zones, and to isolate vehicles and moving plants from workers.

It also allegedly failed to ensure peoplewere not at risk before reversing the grader, and to plan to ensure the grader's movement did not restrict visibility.

There were also no side mirrors on the grader, prosecutors allege.

The company is accused of failing to hold statements detailing safe work methods for the specific task of checking ground levels and boxing roads.

Similar statements addressing the risk of a mobile moving plant were also allegedly absent, despite it being identified as a high risk activity.

The absence of such statements, it is alleged, meant there was insufficient training in the controls needed to safely conduct the activities. 

Staff were also not aware of the statements, and there was allegedly an absence of formal instruction or protocol for carrying out the work Mr Vickery was involved in.

The case will now come before the ACT Supreme Court, and is expected to appear in court later this month. 

A director of the company was present in court, but offered no evidence or witnesses, and chose not to say anything as the case was committed on Monday. 

The court heard the defence is yet to pick up the brief of evidence from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.