The defendant company is engaged in the rural industry and part of its undertaking included cattle mustering using quad bikes.
A 21 year old inexperienced worker was employed as a station hand for the property and within a short period was also assisting with mustering. On the 27th of June 2013, the worker was riding a quad bike mustering over 600 cattle. She was not wearing a helmet, came off the quad bike and sustained fatal head injuries.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court on 9 November 2016 to breaching s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duty under s19(1) and was sentenced.
The prosecution commenced in the Magistrates Court at Charters Towers, but was transferred to the court in Townsville for sentence.
In deciding penalty, the Magistrate took into account the following:
- the defendant entered an early plea of guilty immediately after the rejection of an EU application;
- the defendant company operated cattle stations for more than 20 years without offending under the Act and has not re-offended for more than 3 years since the incident;
- the significant remorse expressed through its directors;
- the defendant took significant post incident steps at high financial cost and has shown ongoing commitment to implement safety measures;
- regard to the significant rehabilitative steps taken post incident;
- the deceased was unfamiliar with the operation of the quad bike and was not wearing a helmet; the deceased did not have previous experience working with cattle; there was little or no evidence the deceased was a competent rider; the defendant failed to ensure the deceased was wearing a helmet;
- the Victim Impact Statement from the deceased's parents and the devastating impact on the family;
- the need for general deterrence given the prevalence of quad bike incidents;
The Magistrate accepted prosecution submissions as to exposure to risk and the applicability of the Rural Code of Practice identifying quad bikes giving rise to a number of fatal and non-fatal incidences each year; that rider experience is a relevant consideration; that riders should be trained in safe operating practices; and that helmets should be worn.
Prosecution submissions were also accepted that there is community and rural industry awareness of the risks in the use of quad bikes, particularly in recent years when a number of Coronial Inquests have reinforced this.
The Magistrate noted that in the circumstances of the mustering activity, the deceased should have worn a helmet and that while that was apparently a policy on the property, it was not enforced. In other circumstances of quad bike use, involving lower risk activities, the importance of wearing helmets in managing risk may be less pronounced depending upon the training and experience of riders.
The Magistrate convicted and fined the defendant $125 000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $1083.50. A conviction was not recorded.
In considering whether to record a conviction the Magistrate took into account that the defendant as an incorporated entity had operated cattle stations for more than 20 years without offending the Act. The Magistrate also took into account that the defendant has not re-offended for more than 3 years since the incident occurred and accepted the defendant took significant post incident rehabilitative steps at a high cost to it which showed an ongoing commitment to implement safety measures. For these reasons, the Magistrate exercised his discretion and did not record a conviction.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the agriculture industry where there is exposure to risks from falls from quad bikes, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of injury or death from falls from quad bikes, obligation holders should consider:
- Rural Code of Practice 2004 (PDF, 0.63 MB)
- Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace 2013 (PDF, 1.04 MB)
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Townsville Magistrates Court
- Mr Steven Mosch
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: