State Government to pay $100,000 over death of prisoner at Hakea

Hakea Prison. Photo: SWI Fencing
Hakea Prison. Photo: SWI Fencing

A STATE Government agency has been fined $100,000 over the death of a remand prisoner crushed between a truck and a wall at Hakea Prison in 2015.

The Department of Justice, which was known as the Department of Corrective Services at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care to ensure the safety and health of a person who was not an employee.

The fine was handed down in Armadale Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

The prisoner had been part of a group cleaning up residential units prior to a redevelopment.

The units had been cleaned out and the contents loaded onto a large truck.

The courtyard in which the truck was operating was not large enough for the truck to turn around, and it needed to reverse into a loading dock then drive forward out of the area.

The truck was backed into the loading dock to turn it around, and the prisoner offered to assist the truck driver reversing into the dock.

The truck then drove forward and turned left at the same moment the prisoner walked forward to leave.

As the truck drove forward and turned, its right rear swung out and pinned the man between the truck and the side wall of the dock.

The group was not briefed on how to safely work around the truck and there were no procedures, training, supervision or enforcement of measures to safely move around when vehicles were in the vicinity.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said the agency not only failed to protect this prisoner from harm, but had a poor workplace safety record over many years.

“Prior to this incident, the department did not carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks created by the tasks, and the briefing given to the working party did not include vehicle movements,” Mr Munns said.

“A risk register that identified pedestrian/vehicle interaction as a hazard was in place, but many staff were unaware of the existence of the register.

“Between January 2010 and August 2015, 222 improvement notices and six prohibition notices were issued by WorkSafe inspectors to the Department of Corrective Services, 67 relating to Hakea Prison.”

More than two years before the fatality, a load of steel fell from a forklift and struck an employee of the department.

After this incident, risk assessments and a job safety analysis were carried out, including looking at safe movement of traffic.

“But by the date of this fatality – more than two years down the track – these documents were still in draft form,” Mr Munns said.

Magistrate Maughan said it would have been easy to ensure pedestrians were in a safe area, and that the potential for harm in any interaction between pedestrians and moving vehicles was high.