KiwiRail ordered to pay $110K after contractor struck by train

September 26, 2015

WorkSafe New Zealand says last years incident where a digger was struck by a train in the central North Island leaving a contractor with serious life-long injuries was entirely preventable.

The family of the contractor, who has spent more than 12 months in hospital, will receive $110,000 in court ordered reparation from KiwiRail Holdings Limited.

The state-owned rail company was sentenced in the Auckland District Court yesterday after it pleaded guilty to charges under sections18 (1)(a), 6 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

WorkSafe Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says this incident was entirely preventable.

Every worker has a right to trust that their employer is looking out for their safety and that the necessary safety precautions and systems for managing potential risks are in place.

Multiple failings by KiwiRail have had a devastating impact on the victims life. He continues to live with these tragic consequences to this very day, Mr Stewart says.

The incident occurred on 17 June 2014 when the Downer contractor, who was carrying out work for KiwiRail at the time, was working in a digger on the Raurimu Spiral, National Park. KiwiRail track workers gave a north bound goods train permission to drive through the site. The train did not have time to stop once the digger came into view and collided with it.

As a result of the collision the contractor sustained severe traumatic brain injury, and severe chest and lung trauma. His injuries were so extensive that he was placed in an induced coma for three weeks. After 12 months the victims prognosis for recovery remains very poor and he still requires 24-hour hospital care.

A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found multiple failures by KiwiRail contributed to the collision, including ineffective communication for all persons on site, poor communication of train movements to workers and failing to provide an effective system that would allow a Rail Protection Officer [RPO] to ensure that all workers were off the tracks before allowing any trains to pass through.

KiwiRail also exposed the KiwiRail train driver to potential serious harm by allowing the train to proceed through the area, resulting in the train colliding with the digger.