Orchard company to pay $134,500 over worker death

02/02/2015 09:28

Orchard company to pay $134,500 over worker death

21 January 2015

AB Wood Holdings Limited has been fined $49,500 and ordered to pay $85,000 in reparation after an employee died when the tractor he was using to mow grass rolled down an embankment, pinning him underneath it and fatally injuring him.

The apple and kiwifruit orchard company in Lower Moutere was sentenced in the Nelson District Court today after pleading guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that the employee, Gary Wakefield, was not exposed to hazards.

The orchard is on sloping terrain and there are narrow areas that need to be carefully manoeuvred, especially by equipment like the tractor and its mowing attachment. Mr Wakefield was employed to do tractor work and odd jobs on the orchard.

“Farm vehicles account for over half of all fatalities on farms,” says Keith Stewart, WorkSafe NZ’s Chief Inspector. “Vehicle rollovers are the first and most frequent cause of these fatalities.”

During WorkSafe’s investigation a number of steps were identified that could have prevented the incident. AB Wood could have reduced the number of apple trees in the row and reshaped the terrain, erected suitable barriers along the slope and terrain, and ensured there was a formal risk assessment in place. In his ruling Judge Zohrab commented that it would have been quite practicable that some form of roll over protective structure was used. He also said that one would have thought that roll over protective structures were used in all high risk situations then retracted in low risk situations.

“Many fatalities and injuries in agriculture occur because the known risks are not fully taken into account. WorkSafe is working with the agriculture sector to help bring about a change in this behaviour,” says Keith Stewart.