News Article

latest news in employment law

Health & Safety failures cost employer $145,000

Published 08 Nov 2016

This week the Hastings District Court charged Kiloran Land Company Ltd nearly $145,000 under the Health & Safety in Employment 1992 Act for the death of a farm worker in Waipawa.

The company had pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to prevent harm following the death of their stock manager in December 2015.

The firm was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay $90,000 in emotional-harm reparation to the family of the deceased worker, along with $3037 for lost income.

On a Tuesday in early December the farm Director noticed his stock manager had not returned for the day, and upon investigation discovered his employee deceased under the quad bike after rolling it in an area he wasn't supposed to be working in.

It's thought the victim was focused on a low-hanging tree branch, didn't notice a ledge and the sudden change in the terrain and rode over it causing the bike to flip. He had died from multiple head, spinal and chest injuries after he rode the quad bike down a slope.

The quad had been fitted with a box on the back full of tools and a weed-spray unit on the front not installed in accordance to the manufacturer's instructions and industry accepted practice. The extra weight and balance issues is thought to have made the quad bike unstable. Further, the employee was not wearing a helmet.

The farm's Director argued employees were instructed to wear helmets, although it wasn't actively enforced, this was the first incident in their history and safety was always a priority. However, fitting and using machinery against manufacturers specifications and failing to conduct a risk assessment is however not taking all reasonable steps to manage risk.

A statement released by Worksafe said this was one of 19 deaths on farms last year. WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart said an examination of farm-vehicle fatalities found most often the driver had set out to do a "fairly routine task", such as spraying.

"Slopes and tracks with steep drop-offs need to be identified in a risk-management plan and properly communicated - or made 'no go' areas"

A point of note is that the Courts are still processing workplace accidents which occurred under the 1992 Act, not the new Health & Safety at Work Act 2015. The penalties are likely to become more severe.

For more information on hazard management please see this article.