An agricultural services operator, who was found guilty during a judge-alone trial, has been ordered to pay reparations of $85,000 to the family of a contractor who was killed on the job.
PJ Wright Limited, formerly known as Te Anau Bulk Haulage (TBHL), was also ordered to pay $65,000 in fines after being found guilty of one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE) for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of Leslie Cain.
The sentencing took place in the Invercargill District Court today.
Mr Cain was a self-employed contractor engaged by TBHL to drive a Bulk Fertiliser spreader, also known as a bulky, which weighed an estimated 14-18 tonnes.
On June 8 2014 Mr Cain was contracted by TBHL to spread fertiliser at a Waituna farm in a vehicle owned by the company. As he was driving the bulky down a grassed hill, Mr Cain lost control of the vehicle and it rolled, coming to rest on its roof.
Mr Cain was not wearing a seatbelt and he died as a result of his injuries.
Judge Henwood found at trial that TBHL failed to take six practicable steps to ensure Mr Cain’s safety. She noted that no steps were taken by TBHL to formally educate or train itself or its contractors about up-to-date health and safety practices in the industry.
Judge Henwood also found that TBHL failed to ensure Mr Cain wore a seatbelt while driving the bulky off road, despite it being recommended by the Ground Spreader Fertilisers Association, the police and the Department of Labour.
Her Honour concluded that “[a] more professional and robust approach about health and safety is needed by this company”.
At sentencing, the Court also noted that TBHL had sold off all its assets after charges were laid against them. Despite the company no longer having financial capacity to pay the fine, the judge still imposed the $65,000 fine, maintaining that the law did not allow for such behaviour.
WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart says TBHL skipped basic steps that would have helped to ensure that any contractor engaged by the company was equipped to do their job safely.
“The company’s lack of health and safety policy, failure to communicate hazard and risk identification with its contractors, and “optional” approach to wearing safety belts clearly demonstrate its hands-off approach to workplace safety,”
“This tragic death isn’t a case of ‘accidents just happen’ – there needs be a systematic approach to good health and safety otherwise you are relying purely on chance. Sadly, this has been proven time and time again not to work.”