Welder killed when crane truck toppled over on barge

R. v. Miller Shipping Ltd., 2005 CarswellNfld 45 (N.L. Prov. Ct.)

A court has found a shipping company guilty of three safety violations after a worker was killed when a crane truck toppled over.

William Clarke was working as a welder on a barge owned by Miller Shipping Ltd., a loading and shipping company. He was struck by a large container being loaded onto the barge by a boom truck which toppled over while being unloaded.

Earlier in the day the barge had been loaded by a shore-based crane, but later a decision was made to use the boom truck, a five-ton truck with a crane mounted on the back.

The container, which weighed more than 11,000 pounds, required the cable to be doubled up to be lifted onto the truck, which was then driven onto the barge.

Clarke was one of two welders working on the barge. They stopped working when the container was driven aboard. The crane operator testified the container suddenly started to swing outward and the truck began to tip over. As the container swung it pinned Clarke between it and a large generator. He died as a result of severe head injuries caused by the accident.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court found there was some evidence that employees were warned about boom trucks. The welders had been instructed to remain away from the area when the truck was driven onto the barge.

Workers testified, however, that they had not received any particular training in health and safety. On the specific hazard posed by boom trucks, “you were told to get out of the way” one worker testified.

The crew was experienced, but there had been no formal instruction in relation to health and safety. Nor had there been any specific training around the operation of boom trucks and the hazards they posed, ruled the court.

The court found it was probable the truck rolled over because it was overloaded and improperly loaded, but this had not been established beyond a reasonable doubt. But since the rolling over of a boom truck is a known and foreseeable hazard when lifting heavy loads, it is not necessary to prove the exact cause of the rollover.

Tipping over was “a hazard that is endemic to this piece of equipment,” and there should have been specific warnings to employees that the truck may roll over and its container swing out.

The court found the company guilty of three counts under the Canada Labour Code: failing to ensure all its employees were made known of safety hazards in the area; failing to ensure this, leading to the death of William Clarke; and failing to ensure the activities of the boom truck operator did not endanger anybody.

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