Mechanics fined $115,000 after fatigue-related death

YJ Auto Repairs Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after pleading guilty to failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work and failing to provide information, instruction or training.

The court heard the driver was employed by YJ Auto Repairs, based at Yarra Junction, which was sub-contracted by the RACV to operate a roadside assistance service.

It was routine for YJ Auto Repairs’ two roadside assistance drivers to work 96-hour on-call shifts over four days and nights.

At the time of the fatal crash, the driver had been on-call for 89 hours and had been working for 17 hours from the first call-out he received on the morning of 9 March 2018 until the collision in the early hours of the following day when he ran off the road and struck a tree at Healesville.

Evidence at the crash site indicated he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

The court heard YJ Auto Repairs did not provide training on how to protect against fatigue or have a safe system of work related to fatigue.

It was reasonably practicable for the company to have procedures and work schedules in place to minimise the risk of fatigue – such as 12-hour maximum shifts and/or eight-hour breaks between shifts – and to provide information and/or training on the risks associated with fatigue and how to prevent it.

The RACV was convicted and fined $475,000 over the fatigue-related death in December 2021.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said fatigue went beyond just feeling drowsy and led to physical, emotional or mental exhaustion that prevented people from functioning safely.

“It is unacceptable for workers to be pushed beyond their physical and mental limits day after day. As this case tragically highlights, managing fatigue can be the difference between someone going home at the end of their shift or losing their life at work,” Dr Beer said.

“It is up to employers to manage work schedules, rostering and workloads to ensure workers have adequate rest and to make sure training and support on fatigue is available.”

To reduce the risk of fatigue employers should:

  • Set realistic workloads and eliminate or reduce the need to work extended hours or overtime.
  • Schedule an adequate number of workers and other resources to do the job to avoid placing excessive demands on staff.
  • Appropriately schedule leave and other staff commitments such as training and ensure there is a process for managing unplanned absences.
  • Develop policies and procedures to identify, prevent and manage fatigue and ensure they are implemented and promoted.
  • The policy should include maximum daily work hours, maximum average weekly hours, and consider time of day and work-related travel.
  • Control overtime, shift-swapping and on-call duties.
  • Provide adequate breaks between shifts to allow employees enough recovery time (including travel, family time, leisure and socialising and exercise time).
  • Enable staff to speak up if they are feeling fatigued and unable to work without risk.

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