Worksafe uncovered "significant" deficiencies in a Hamilton trucking company's safety procedures after a young worker was crushed to death.

The death of the 18-year-old yard hand - who was granted permanent name suppression in the Hamilton District Court today - also saw his employer Altranz given a reduced fine of $75,000 due to its financial constraints.

Details of Altranz's financial position were also suppressed by Judge Maree Mackenzie, due to "commercial sensitivity", when the company was sentenced and also ordered to pay the family $105,000 in reparation, along with costs of $3,764.20.

The court heard how the teenager was just five months into his job when he got crushed in between the stabiliser legs of a shipping container side loader as the legs were stowed at Torpedo 7's distribution centre on Sharpe Rd, near Hamilton International Airport, on June 21, last year.

Advertisement

The victim and another employee went to the Torpedo 7 yard to deliver two shipping containers.

During the process of helping the operator, the victim went into and remained in what is recognised as a known hazard zone.

He was then fatally crushed.

As a result of the man's death, Altranz was charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers by exposing him to death after being crushed by a swing lift side loader.

The company failed to notice the hazard that the stabiliser legs exhibited, to ensure that effective controls for managing the risks were implemented and monitored, not developing a safe operating procedure for the side loader, especially when people were in close proximity.

The judge regarded the failures as "significant departures from industry standards".

The judge noted the family's comments in their victim impact statements, including how they "think of him every day, it's the little things they miss".

His mother and sister also described him as a "kind, selfless and caring young man".

"The death of their much loved son and brother has had a profound effect on the family. This was a devastating life event being the hardest the family has had to deal with.

"The sense of loss is raw and palpable. [Victim's] family are grieving the loss of a young man taken too soon at the start of his journey into adulthood."

The victim's mother also hoped that his death had meaning to prevent other similar deaths happening in the future.

After taking a starting point of $700,000 and offering various discounts, including early guilty pleas, she got down to $367,500. However, that was then slashed to $75,000.

She noted that a fine was designed to "bite but it should not devour a company".

Judge Mackenzie said Altranz thought there were effective controls in place to manage the risks and hazards but had since "accepted its beliefs in that regard were misconceived and that its processes were insufficient".

Torpedo 7's Hamilton distribution warehouse where the fatal accident occurred. Photo / File
Torpedo 7's Hamilton distribution warehouse where the fatal accident occurred. Photo / File

"The WorkSafe investigation identified serious deficiencies in relation to the risk and hazards of the side loader, an aspect is that while the operator was experienced in side loaders he was inexperienced in respect of the swing lift side loader itself, which was not fully appreciated by the defendant.

"It would seem also that the operator did not operate the side loader on that day in accordance with accepted industry standards."

The most "obvious" hazard was the fact that it was "man versus machine".

"The most obvious matter is the proper identification of the hazard zone and keeping people out of the area when the swing lift side loader is operating."

She accepted the remorse shown by company director Angus Lochore was genuine.

"He accepts that has had a terrible impact on the family and upon his family ... there is a close family relationship and that there is nothing that the company can do, he can do or that the court can do to ameliorate that."

As for the culpability, the company recognised it fell short of what it should have done to ensure the victim's safety, however the company's lawyer Barbarella McCarthy laid part of that blame at the feet of the workers on the day.

"The people who were operating the machine at the time had experience in the operation of the machine.

"Worksafe's expert admits that [worker] appeared to know very thoroughly what he was doing, but it is still recognised that on that night all parties who were there did not do what they should have done and that responsibility falls back on Altranz."

Judge Mackenzie took a starting point of $700,000 before issuing discounts for early guilty plea, remorse and "overarching" remedial actions it had taken since the accident occurred.

The judge also acknowledged the presence of family, including the victim's mother and sister and also the fact his father decided not to come to court. She also noted how close the victim's father and Lochore once were.

"All I can hope for you today is that the sentencing will at least bring some closure for you in terms of at least you being able to put one part of the process behind you, and that's the legal process."