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January 2020

Teenage boy killed in farming incident

Teenage boy killed in farming incident

WorkSafe Qld v New Leaf Ag Pty Ltd (2018)

Facts

New Leaf Ag Pty Ltd (the Company) owned a cotton and beef cattle production farm that was operated by a farm management company (Farm Management). Farm Management hired two 14-year-old boys to work on the farm during their school holidays. One of the tasks required the boys to use a tractor and trailer to collect irrigation pipes across the property. The boys were given this task by Farm Management, which had received instructions from a director of the Company.

To complete the task, the boys were required to pick up the irrigation pipes and place them in the trailer before delivering the pipes to a designated unloading area. During this task, one boy drove the tractor and the other rode inside the trailer as there was no other space available. The second boy fell out of the trailer while it was in motion and was run over, suffering fatal injuries.

Judgment

WorkSafe Qld prosecuted the Company and Farm Management in separate proceedings.

The Company was ultimately found in breach of its work health and safety (WHS) duty because it did not properly consider the risks of using a truck and trailer to complete the task, nor did it properly consider how the work was to be completed while ensuring the safety of the workers.

The Magistrate also drew attention to the inexperience of the workers, stating there was a failure to provide the boys with safe systems of work or adequate supervision. Neither the Company nor Farm Management presented an alternative, safe place to ride instead of the trailer. The Company was fined $400,000 and ordered to pay costs of $1092.55.

Lessons

Failure to have in place a safe system of work when there is a risk of serious injury or death will result in significant fines, particularly if the worker in question is young or inexperienced. Businesses must be aware of foreseeable risks of injury, as was the case in this incident where risks were identified in available codes of practice, specifically: the Children and Young Workers Code of Practice 2006 and the Safe Design and Operation of Tractors Code of Practice 2005.

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