AMSJ » Whitehaven defends haul road maintenance in court
LEGAL SPEAK

Whitehaven defends haul road maintenance in court

haul road maintenance
haul road maintenance featured in a recent case

HAUL ROAD MAINTENANCE | A court has found that Whitehaven mining operation (the Defendant) was not liable for failing to spot a soft spot on a haul road in which a dump truck operator (the Plaintiff) was required to drive in the course of her duties as a dump truck operator. The Defendant successfully evidenced a comprehensive inspection routine.

Court considers soft spot in haul road a duty of care issue

The Court was required to consider whether the Defendant had breached its duty of care in failing to detect a soft spot on the road on which the Plaintiff was required to drive in her duties as a dump truck driver.

Background to the case

The Plaintiff commenced proceedings after a shoulder injury resulting from an alleged work-related incident. The Plaintiff operated a dump truck at the Defendant’s mine site and sustained the injury when she allegedly drove over a soft spot on the road, which she said caused the cabin to shake violently resulting in injury. The Defendant denied negligence, asserting that there was no soft spot on the road or in the alternative, the Plaintiff was driving too fast for the conditions.

The decision at trial

Adamson J determined that on the facts, the Defendant was not liable for the damages sustained during the incident. The Plaintiff was not able to successfully establish that the soft spot was present at the time of the incident. However, the Defendant was able to produce several witness statements of workers who had inspected the road at frequent intervals prior to the incident, at which times no soft spot was present. There had also been multiple instances of other vehicles travelling along the same road immediately preceding the incident – with no issues arising.

Further, the Court considered the Plaintiff’s credibility to be low as she had a significantly inconsistent recount of events.

The Plaintiff was ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs of the proceedings.

Implications

This haul road maintenance case demonstrates the importance of keeping records and obtaining witness statements of workers with contemporaneous knowledge of events, in relation to claims involving allegations of poorly maintained surfaces.

Kerr v Whitehaven Coal Mining Pty Ltd [2020] NSWSC 1096

Read more about maintaining friction on haul roads or haul road lighting for increased safety.

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