Fine increased by Court of Appeal

A Victorian mechanics business that serviced a petrol tanker days before it crashed and killed three people in the state’s north east in 2014 has had its fine increased after an appeal.

Wodonga-based company Heavy Mechanics Pty Ltd was sentenced in 2022 after being found guilty of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The mechanics had serviced a petrol tanker in August 2014 that decoupled days later on Wodonga-Yackandandah Road at Staghorn Flat.

The trailer detached and struck two cars.

Peta Cox was in one of the vehicles and Lisa Turner and her four-year-old son, Jack, were in the other.

All three died.

Heavy Mechanics was convicted and fined $210,000, but on Monday the Court of Appeal heard that sentence was “manifestly inadequate”.

Its fine has been increased to $350,000.

The court had previously heard the company had serviced the truck just days before the fatal crash.

A WorkSafe investigation found the tow-eye coupling that connected the prime mover and trailer was excessively worn and had failed under load.

It had been used for more than three years, over 350,000 kilometres since 2011 when the company took over servicing the vehicle.

When passing his initial sentence in the County Court of Victoria last year, Judge George Georgiou said he had taken into account the otherwise good reputation of Heavy Mechanics and several other factors including the time between the crash and when WorkSafe Victoria’s investigation was launched, two years later.

He accepted there was no blatant disregard for safety and that the “tug test” had been used by other companies to check whether the coupling was safe or unsafe.

WorkSafe executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer, said while no penalty could ever make up for the loss of life, the sentence sent a strong message.

“This sentence sends a strong message to duty holders using our roads that they must consider not only the potential risks to themselves and their workers, but also the potential catastrophic impacts on other road users or members of the public,” she said.

She said WorkSafe would not hesitate to appeal against sentences to ensure penalties reflected the terrible cost of ignoring safety obligations.

Heavy Mechanics has been approached for comment.

Source: ABC News

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