Altus Traffic fined over death of Launceston worker

Trent Close and partner, Melissa, leaving the Launceston Magistrates Court on Monday following a decision over the death of traffic worker Terry Close in 2013. Picture: Phillip Biggs
Trent Close and partner, Melissa, leaving the Launceston Magistrates Court on Monday following a decision over the death of traffic worker Terry Close in 2013. Picture: Phillip Biggs

The family of a Launceston traffic worker killed on the job has “a bit more closure” after his employer was fined over the “tragedy”.

Terry Close died when he was hit by a car while controlling traffic at a roadworks site at Mowbray in February, 2013. His employer, Altus Traffic, previously pleaded guilty to a category 2 health and safety breach, which carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

On Monday, Magistrate Sharon Cure fined the national traffic management company $250,000 for failing to ensure Mr Close was provided with a safe workplace.

Detailing the history of the case, Ms Cure said Mr Close was not properly trained in traffic management and on the day of his death, the appropriate safety measures were not in place at his work site. When he was hit, Mr Close was standing close to the middle of the road, trying to watch the crack sealing work in front of him and the traffic behind him.

There were no bollards or cones, limited roadwork signage and no shadow vehicle. 

Venarchie Contracting, who was undertaking the works, was also charged with health and safety breaches, but was found not guilty last year.

The man behind the wheel was Murray Higgs, who pleaded guilty to causing death by negligent driving.

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At the time of the crash, he was tuning his radio and did not see Mr Close – he was sentenced to three months jail, wholly suspended.

Ms Cure said the training and support provided to Mr Close was “not sufficient”, describing the incident as a “systematic failure to address a foreseeable risk”. 

“The defendant owed a duty to the worker and failed to comply with that duty,” she said.

During a hearing in September, Mr Close’s son, Trent, shared a “moving” victim impact statement.

He told the court his father was his “best mate” and he had been left with a “huge void” in his life.

“I have regard to the matters Mr (Trent) Close bravely spoke of,” Ms Cure said.

Terry Close.

Terry Close.

Ms Cure fined Altus Traffic $250,000 and recorded a conviction.

Trent Close and his partner Melissa left the court following the decision.

Mr Close said “at least it’s a bit more closure for the family”.

Altus Traffic representatives were not present in court on Monday, with their lawyer appearing by phone.

The company’s chief executive Jeff Doyle issued a statement after the decision.

“We accept the financial penalty imposed on Altus today as an appropriate representation of our contribution to the accident,” he said.

“Terry’s tragic death will not be forgotten and drives us to improve safety for all road workers.”