New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail has accepted the judgement of the Auckland District Court, which ordered it pay $110,000 to the family of a Downer contractor who was severely injured when the digger he was operating was struck by a train in the central North Island region in June 2014.
KiwiRail group general manager Todd Moyle said the state-owned business, which is responsible for rail operations in New Zealand, would willingly pay reparations to the family of Paul Anderson, who has spent more than 12 months in hospital after the incident.
“KiwiRail completed a thorough investigation of what happened and found that we had not taken all practical steps to ensure that everyone working at the site was off the track before a train came through,” Moyle said.
“As a result, this terrible accident occurred.”
According to WorkSafe New Zealand, the incident occurred on June 17, 2014, when Anderson – a Downer contractor – was carrying out work for KiwiRail in a digger on the Raurimu Spiral, National Park.
Worksafe says KiwiRail track workers gave a north-bound goods train permission to drive through the site, and the train did not have time to stop once the digger came into view.
Anderson sustained severe traumatic brain injury and severe chest and lung trauma, according to WorkSafe.
“Multiple failings by KiwiRail have had a devastating impact on the victim’s life,” WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Steward said, adding that the incident was entirely preventable.
“[Anderson] continues to live with these tragic consequences to this very day.
“Every worker has a right to trust that their employer is looking out for their safety and that the necessary safey precautions and systems for managing potential risks are in place.”
Moyle says KiwiRail has made changes following reviews into the safety procedures across its rail network.
“We recognised that we needed to do more to protect our teams when they are working on the network and make sure that no trains enter worksites unless all workers and all equipment is off the track.
“As a result of these changes, all worksites across the country now have a register to record all personnel and vehicles operating near the tracks.”
Additionally, KiwiRail has introduced a ‘lock-on lock-off’ procedure.
Moyle explains: “Before going on to the track everyone at a site, whether working or visiting, is issued with a padlock which has to be attached to a board held by the site protector. When the person comes off the track, they remove their padlock. A train will be allowed to pass through the site only when all padlocks are removed.”
Moyle offered his sincere apologies to Anderson’s family.
“They live every day with the consequences of this accident and while we make the reparations willingly, we understand no amount of money can change what happened.
“The safety of everyone who works for us and who travels with us is our primary concern, and we will continue to work to prevent an accident like this from happening again.”