The Electrical Trades Union has issued an immediate ban on the towing of pole trailers by borer trucks, involving more than 100 heavy vehicles based at Essential Energy depots across the state, after up to 10 per cent were found to be breaching Roads and Maritime Services legal safety limits, putting drivers and the public at risk.
The safety issue was uncovered last Thursday, June 1, when an Essential Energy borer truck fitted with a crane used to dig holes and lift new power poles into position was found to exceed the legal safe weight limit for its front axle while being checked on a public weighbridge. Further examinations found 1 in 10 of the company’s borer truck fleet breached heavy vehicle safety limits, in particular when they were towing jinker trailers to transport power poles.
The ETU wrote to Essential Energy management the following day seeking an immediate action plan to address the serious safety issue, warning that it was not only putting workers and other road users at risk, but could also result in the drivers being fined more than $2,200 for operating an overloaded vehicle.
Essential Energy’s General Manager for Safety, Human Resources and Environment refused to issue a safety warning to staff, telling the union: “we have decided we will not issue a safety alert as it does not apply to the majority of our fleet or depots.”
ETU NSW secretary Dave McKinley said the union was left with no choice but to today (June 8) issue a fleet-wide ban on the use of Essential Energy borer trucks towing jinker trailers after discovering that days after the company was made aware of the serious safety issue, a potentially overweight vehicle was driven 360 kilometres from Inverell to Ballina.
“Days after admitting that 10 per cent of their fleet of borer trucks were potentially in breach of the safe weight limits imposed by RMS, Essential Energy not only refused to issue a safety alert to staff, but they had one of these trucks driven hundreds of kilometres, putting the safety of workers, other road users and the general public at risk,” Mr McKinley said.
“The RMS imposes strict legal limits on heavy vehicles precisely because of the substantial danger an overloaded vehicle poses to everyone on the road.
“The fact that Essential Energy was not only operating numerous vehicles that breach these legal limits, but that they refused to issue a safety alert to workers after the union uncovered the issue, shows a complete disregard for their legal obligations, the safety of their workforce, and the general public.”
Essential Energy this afternoon accused union members of carrying out unprotected industrial action by refusing to use the unsafe vehicles, with the company’s industrial relations manager threatening to take legal action in the Fair Work Commission unless the safety ban was reversed.
“Essential Energy’s failure to put in place a safe system of work that complies with the rules of the road left the union with no option but to impose a ban on the use of all borer trucks towing jinker trailers until Essential Energy can guarantee that these vehicles are operating legally and safely at all times,” Mr McKinley said.
“Instead of acting to ensure their fleet is safe, Essential Energy are instead devoting their resources to threatening legal action against the union and their own workers for simply demanding a safe workplace.”