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Details of successful prosecution against E171105

Incident description

The defendant operated a banana farm at Tully. On 4 September 2012, a worker was injured when a tractor he was driving failed to navigate a bend in a farm road and drove down a four metre embankment. The worker was not wearing the fitted seatbelt. He was ejected from the tractor and run over by the front and rear wheels.

The defendant engaged a number of Korean workers (including the injured worker) with limited English skills. The Korean workers were trained, instructed and inducted by Australian supervisors through a Korean interpreter.

The defendant had a number of work related documents written in English including instructions for driving tractors which included a direction to wear fitted seatbelts.

There was conflict in the evidence as to the extent of training and assessment in tractor driving skills provided to the injured worker. The fitted seat belt was found to be buckled under the seat after the incident and the supervisor admitted that while drivers were periodically monitored to ensure they were wearing seatbelts while working in the rows of trees, that monitoring did not take place while they drove on farm roads.

Since the incident, the defendant has translated all safe work documentation into Korean. The wearing of seatbelts on tractors is now strictly policed and drivers are suspended from tractor operation if they are found not wearing a seatbelt.  Ongoing safety training, instruction and monitoring is also undertaken, the farm road has been rerouted to eliminate the bend and daily safety checks include seatbelt inspection.

Court result

The defendant pleaded guilty in the Tully Magistrates Court on 18 September 2014 to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was sentenced.

Magistrate Janelle Brassington fined the defendant $35 000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1080.70. No conviction was recorded.

Magistrate Brassington noted that there were no similar previous decisions. The failure to wear a seatbelt was critical to the breach and that training material should have been supplemented with written material in Korean. She noted that since the incident the defendant had produced training materials in Korean, had significantly improved supervision and inspection, including daily supervision of the use of seatbelts and rerouting the road.

In deciding penalty, Magistrate Brassington took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, cooperated with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty. She also took into account the defendant was ‘trying to do the right thing’ and at the time of sentencing felt that a court ordered undertaking and recognisance was not required in this case because suitable and real remedial action was finalised.

Considerations for prevention

(Commentary under this heading is not part of the Court’s decision)

When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of being ejected from mobile plant, duty holders must consider the manufacturer’s requirements for operating such plant, including the wearing of a seat belt.

Details

Industry:
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
Defendant:
E171105
Date of offence:
04/09/2012
Injury:
Fractured ribs, punctured and collapsed lungs, bleeding into lungs, bleeding into capsule lining of liver, contusion to right kidney
Court
Tully Magistrates Court
Magistrate:
Ms Janelle Brassington
Legislation:
s.32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
Decision date:
18/09/2014
Penalty:
$35 000
Maximum Penalty:
$1 500 000
Conviction recorded:
No
CIS event number:
E171105
Last updated
02 July 2018

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