Two farming companies and a sole director have been fined a total $475,000 after the tragic death of a 14 year old boy at a large property in Goondiwindi on 1 April 2016.
At a sentence hearing in the Goondiwindi Magistrates Court on Friday 7 December 2018, a large cotton and beef cattle production farm at Goondiwindi was fined $450,000 for two separate breaches of the Act, while a farm manager was fined $5,000 and the company he operated received a $20,000 fine. All three parties were also ordered to pay courts costs of almost $1,100 each. No convictions were recorded against the defendants.
In the 2016 incident, twin 14 year old boys were employed during school holidays to perform various tasks around the farm.
The court heard both boys were inexperienced in farming activities and on day of the incident were directed to pick up irrigation pipes using a tractor with a trailer. The tractor had one seat which the operator occupied. The other boy sat on the trailer. After one load was collected, the passenger stood on a small platform on the drawbar which placed him between the tractor and trailer. Tragically, he fell and was run over by the loaded trailer. The youngster subsequently died in hospital later that evening from injuries he received.
The farming company owned the tractor which was defective, though the faults were not causative of the incident. It was simply an item of plant that should not have been in service and available for use by any worker.
The company operated the farm and it held the primary responsibility to ensure work systems were in place for all employees, including vulnerable child workers. It also had an obligation to provide appropriate supervision such workers require. Sadly, it did not have these systems in place.
The company which provided farm management planned work, organised plant and performed daily work activities to ensure the farm operated correctly.
The sole director of this company was the individual who carried out the management activities.
Magistrate Bevan Manthey told the court there was obvious risk to a most vulnerable category of worker and the farming operation failed in its system of supervision. His Honour said general deterrence and denunciation formed a large component of the penalty in order to send a message that duty holders understand breaches of the WHS Act which result in serious injury or death will result in significant penalties being imposed.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
11 December, 2018