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Australian Fleet Passenger Also at Fault for Crash

September 07, 2015

A passenger in a work vehicle has the same implied and statutory duty to observe safety signs and communication procedures as the driver, a commissioner in Australia has ruled in finding an employer was right to discipline a worker for using his mobile phone at the time of a crash, according to a report by Australia’s OHS Alert.

The report quoted Australia’s Fair Work Commissioner (FWC) Danny Cloghan who found that while vehicle passengers in workplaces had different roles than drivers, "that does not detract or absolve them from their duty of care as employees."

In December 2014, a Veolia Environmental Services worker and a colleague were directed to perform cleaning services at a Cockburn Cement site in Western Australia, and travelled there in a truck driven by the colleague. As they entered the site, the driver ignored signs saying that a loader operated in the area that vehicles without a two-way radio couldn't enter the site, and that drivers had to contact the loader operator by radio before entering the site. The loader subsequently reversed into the truck, causing nearly AUS$6000 (US$4,164) in damage, and Veolia dismissed the truck driver, according to the report.

It also issued a first and final warning to the passenger worker for failing to take reasonable care for his own and others' safety in failing to observe Cockburn's signage and communication procedures, according to the report.

The Australian Workers Union, on behalf of the disciplined worker, applied to the FWC for an order quashing the first and final warning, arguing it wasn't reasonable and that the Commission had the jurisdiction to deal with the matter because it involved the health and safety clause of the relevant enterprise agreement.

Commissioner Cloghan disagreed with the latter point, and dismissed the application.

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