Bosses liable for sleepy truckies
By TOBY WALKER
UNIONS have applauded the NSW Industrial Relations Commission's (IRC) decision in finding a transport employer guilty of failing to provide safe working conditions.
On Wednesday the IRC found James Hitchcock, director of Nowra-based haulage operator Sayogi Pty Ltd, guilty of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Hitchcock's failure to provide a reasonable standard of care was found to have contributed to the death of one of his drivers in a fatigue-related accident at Tyndale in 1999.
In the unprecedented prosecution case, the court found that the company's systems of work had served to increase the risks associated with long-distance driving, in turn indirectly contributing to the fatigue that killed driver Darri Haynes.
IRC vice-president Michael Walton said as much when handing down his judgment.
"Mr Haynes was exposed to the risk of driving when fatigued by an employer guilty of numerous serious failures," he said.
"Drivers risked their jobs or incomes if they failed to comply."
However, Mr Walton said there was not enough evidence to show the company's failures were the direct cause of the accident.
Hitchcock denied the charges.
The IRC has adjourned the matter for sentencing, with Hitch- cock facing a $55,000 fine.