A North Queensland produce company was recently fined $150,000 in the Bowen Magistrates Court over the death of a 37-year-old worker who was crushed when he dismounted from a moving tractor.
The court heard that in March 2019, the deceased was driving six workers slowly around the paddock as they planted capsicum seedlings while seated in plastic seats in the planter attached to the tractor.
The worker was previously seen dismounting the moving tractor to restock the seedling trays and a short time later the planting crew heard a cry for help. He was found under the wheel of the planter and was later declared deceased from heart and chest injuries.
He had worked for the organisation for nine years and dismounting from the moving tractor was common practice until around mid-2018 when the defendant introduced a policy prohibiting it. The policy included the statement ‘never get off a moving tractor’.
Records indicated that the deceased had signed a document confirming he took part in the safety induction only a month earlier but continued to dismount and was remanded for it three times before his death.
Upon sentencing, Magistrate James Morton took into account the defendant’s plea of guilty, noting that the defendant had put in place policies and procedures for the safety of workers, however, in this instance, they were clearly aware that this particular policy was not being followed nor enforced.
The magistrate said the incident was tragic and that the family owned company had worked closely with the man for nine years. The incident could have been avoided had the defendant been more forceful in its approach to enforcing the policy.
He commented that the consequences of the risk were clearly severe, the probability of the risk was very real and the additional steps that could have been taken to avoid the incident were not burdensome or inconvenient.
The company was fined $150,000 plus court costs. No conviction was recorded.
More prosecutions can be found at Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor website.