Timber firm fined $262k for fatal accident

A timber firm has been fined over $262,000 after the death of a worker in an accident at its sawmill in the NSW central west.

A timber company has been fined $262,500 after a worker was fatally struck by a 580 kilogram pack of timber at a NSW central west sawmill in 2019.

On Thursday, District Court Judge Wendy Strathdee convicted Australian Softwood and imposed the penalty because of the firm’s failure to implement proper policies and create a safe workplace.

Truck driver Thomas Williamson was hit by the timber while loading slabs onto the back of a vehicle at the Allied Timber Products sawmill in Raglan on July 22, 2019. He was unresponsive and airlifted to Westmead Hospital.

Suffering a traumatic brain injury, Mr Williamson was pronounced brain dead two days later.

SafeWork NSW launched the lawsuit after being notified of the incident.

Australian Softwood, which is a subsidiary of AAM Investment Group, purchased the sawmill in January 2019 and had no prior experience in running such a company, Judge Strathdee said.

The company could have taken a number of steps to eliminate or reduce risks to workers at the Bathurst sawmill, the judge added.

“I accept that this incident was as a consequence of an inadequate system which did not properly address the risks with regard to the loading of timber products,” she wrote.

Noting steps the firm had taken to improve its workplace policies since the incident, Judge Strathdee said she had some comfort Australian Softwood would not reoffend.

She noted the effects of the tragedy on Mr Williamson’s family after hearing victim impact statements read in court, including by his wife Debra Williamson.

“It would be impossible for anyone not to be deeply moved by her statement. Mrs Williamson’s life has ‘been destroyed’ by the loss of her best friend, lover and soul mate,” the judge wrote.

In a statement, Australian Softwood expressed deep remorse and apologised for Mr Williamson’s death, saying it fully accepted the court-ordered fine.

“ASPL unreservedly apologises to the family of the driver, the Bathurst community, and anyone affected by this tragedy,” it said.

Australian Softwood’s cooperation with SafeWork NSW and its early guilty plea in December 2021 resulted in a 25 per cent discount of a $350,000 penalty imposed by the court.

The firm was also ordered to pay SafeWork NSW’s legal costs of almost $38,000.

SafeWork NSW has been contacted for comment.

Source: 7News

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