Construction firms Downer and McConnell Dowell negotiate deal to avoid Worksafe prosecution

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Press release

On 30 October 2019 Fyfa Campbell Dawson was cycling to work with her route taking her past a construction site on a temporary section of Springs Road associated with work on the new Christchurch Southern Motorway extension.

Due to the nature of the site, a temporary route was set out for pedestrians, cyclists and others by those in charge. Ms Campbell Dawson was following this route when she collided with a truck as it entered the site and died.

A subsequent WorkSafe investigation alleged Downer New Zealand and McConnell Dowell failed to ensure the health and safety of members of the public as a safe and effective temporary traffic management system wasn’t in place.

Steve Killeen, CEO Downer NZ.

WorkSafe laid charges against both, and as an alternative to prosecution Downer New Zealand and McConnell Dowell each offered an enforceable undertaking, which was accepted.

WorkSafe considered the following mitigations were reasonably practicable and could have reduced risk of harm:

  • A minimum one metre shoulder for cyclists
  • Providing Traffic Management Operations with effective information, instruction and supervision, specifically relating to provision for cyclists and clear and consistent information
  • Instruction and supervision should have been provided to Traffic Management Operations in relation to the frequency and numbers of expected deliveries to allow for the consideration of effective controls relating to the risk of vehicle entry and egress on site.

“Enforceable undertakings require a commitment from the businesses and organisations involved to improve health and safety within their business, industry and community,” says WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions Dr Catherine Gardner.

“Both companies in this instance have expressed a desire to improve health and safety and especially to protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”

Downer, a finalist in the 2021 NZ Safeguard awards, and McConnell Dowell have worked together, as joint venture partners, to coordinate the activities they are undertaking.

The two enforceable undertakings comprise:

  • Reparations to the victim’s family
  • A fleet training programme focusing on the potential impact of driver’s actions on vulnerable road users
  • Supporting a scoping study and pilot to establish options to mitigate the risks to vulnerable road users with CHASANZ
  • Supporting the establishment of a Good Practice Guideline for the treatment of vulnerable road users in temporary traffic management
  • Development of an NZQA qualification for Temporary Traffic Management Risk Assessment
  • Investment in a virtual reality training programme
  • Facilitating a cyclist awareness programme across roading sites
  • Contributions to Waka Kotahi’s BikeReady programme

“An enforceable undertaking requires the business or organisation to be directly involved in improving health and safety for the betterment of all. Today is where the commitment really begins and WorkSafe will regularly monitor progress on the conditions which have been agreed,” says Dr Gardner.

“This doesn’t take away from the fact this was a preventable death. Cyclists and other vulnerable road users have a more than reasonable expectation they will be safe when they travel – and those in charge of sites like this one need to meet that.”

Read more about the accepted enforceable undertakings:

Statement from Fyfa’s parents, Sarah Campbell and Richard Dawson:

The loss of our daughter has been devastating. She was a vibrant person who lit up the room when she entered. She had an adventurous spirit and cycled over 10,000 km in the United States. Ironically, she was struck and killed while cycling to work, 3k from home.  

Downer and McConnell Dowell’s failure to ensure a safe traffic management plan around their worksite has had catastrophic consequences. Fyfa lost her life. We lost a daughter, a sister and a friend. We think about her everyday and each special occasion highlights the gaping hole left by her death. We must live with her absence for the rest of our lives.   

The commitment by these companies to the enforceable undertaking is a step in the right direction to improve safety for cyclists.  

The victim’s family have asked WorkSafe to pass on their request not to be contacted by media.

Statement from Steve Killeen, CEO of Downer New Zealand:

Downer has strived to ensure the activities set out in its enforceable undertaking will benefit not only its workers and industry, but also will have a wide reach within cycling communities across New Zealand.

We are always seeking improvement in the Temporary Traffic Management space and we strongly believe that the work undertaken as part of this enforceable undertaking will move the industry beyond mere compliance with existing requirements and have a significant step change effect that benefits the construction industry and the broader community.

Statement from Fraser Wyllie, MD of McConnell Dowell New Zealand & Pacific:

McConnell Dowell is dedicated to improving safety for vulnerable road users and embraces the enforceable undertaking as a platform to improve temporary traffic management delivery and build capability of workers and our industry to make roads safer for our entire community.

The emphasis will be educating and training initiatives to improve awareness and to reduce the risk exposure for all road users. We are creating a digital engineering visualisation tool and partnering with industry bodies when construction work is carried out.

The Buzz says: The CEO of Pike River Mines, where 29 people died, also negotiated a deal to avoid prosecution.

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