I recently read an article outlining the penalty metered to a drilling company for failing to provide a safe workplace. Going through the release I was struck with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu and began to question whether we really do learn from our previous mistakes.
In 2015 a Mobile Manufacturing Unit (MMU) truck was being driven down a ramp at a mine when the operator lost full control of the vehicle and was unable to slow the vehicle down by using the brakes.
The operator steered the MMU into a windrow to slow the vehicle down. No one was injured and no damage was caused.
Where it gets interesting is that department’s investigation found the driver was a trainee MMU operator and had not been verified as competent to operate the MMU without supervision.
It also found that repairs were performed on the braking system of the MMU on 2 January 2015 by a worker who was not qualified to undertake those repairs.
In a nutshell, we have an individual who needed to develop their competence in undertaking the task, a lack of adequate supervision and a vehicle that could well have been known to have faulty brakes.
In 2006 a Western Australian drilling company working in Victoria became Australia’s first “gross negligence” conviction when a young employee was crushed by the vehicle he was driving. He too was considered short on competence for the task he was directed to perform by his supervisor. He too was driving a heavy vehicle that was known to have faulty brakes. He lost control, the vehicle overturned and regrettably it cost him his life.
I am certain there have been other similar circumstances over time. Even allowing that mechanical failures can occur, my area of concern is the low level of competence of the individual involved yet they were still given the task to perform, the adequacy of the supervision, specifically the lack of consideration given to the competence of the individual involved and the behaviours that would put the need to get the task done, ahead of the safety of those involved.
Are we really learning our lessons from the past?