Runaway trailer involved in road fatality

October 27, 2023

(New Zealand)
WorkSafe is warning businesses of the catastrophic consequences that can result from failing to undertake routine safety checks on trailers.

This follows the death of 52-year-old Julian Bruins Yates, whose van was struck when a trailer detached from a work vehicle in October 2020 on Weka Pass Road in Canterbury.

Ultimate Design and Renovation (UDR) Limited, which owned the A-frame trailer and tow vehicle, and its operational arm ABC Aluminium Limited, have now been sentenced for health and safety failures. A fine of $270,000 was imposed, along with an order to pay $130,000 in reparations.

A WorkSafe investigation found the locking handle on the trailer was not engaged, and the trailer’s safety chain was not connected to the vehicle.

WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions, Dr. Catherine Gardner said: “These are routine checks that must be done when towing a trailer. If not, the consequences can be catastrophic.”

ABC and UDR did not have systems to ensure vehicles were kept in good working order, or systems to ensure drivers visually checked their vehicles before use.

WorkSafe also found staff had inadequate information, training, instruction, supervision, and experience to safely use the company vehicles and trailers.

Dr. Gardner added: “It’s not enough to just have your workers sign a vehicle policy. Businesses need to ensure drivers are competent to safely use a vehicle, especially one that is being towed.

“Julian Bruins Yates was a father of two who lost his life through no fault of his own. Any business with a vehicle fleet should heed the lessons of this tragedy because it was entirely preventable.”

This is valid as of 23rd October 2023.

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