A Western Australian company has been fined $A50,000 over the death of one of its workers in November 2008 The worker rode a quad bike into a wire gate and died. The recent WorkSafe WA media release focuses, understandably on the fine imposed in the Perth Magistrates’ Court on Jenara P/L but a clearer picture of the incident is available from an earlier WorkSafe report into the incident. The accused, in this instance, was Seatown Holdings, a labour hire firm who was fined $A30,000 :
“The accused was a labour hire company which employed a worker for remuneration and arranged for said worker to work for Jenara Pty Ltd who was one of its clients.
The client ran a grain growing farm near Miling.
During the afternoon on Sunday 16 November 2008 the worker was working alone and riding an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) on a road on the client’s farm when he rode into a wire gate known as a ‘cockies gate’.Early the next morning (17 November 2008) a truck driver working for the client found the worker lying on the road.
The worker was not wearing a helmet and was cold to touch with a lot of blood coming out of his nose and ears.
The worker had suffered a serious head injury and died in RPH on Tuesday 18 November 2008
Workers on the farm, including the worker provided by the Accused, had been operating the ATV without wearing a suitable helmet.
The cockies gate was made of fencing wire and was difficult to see.
There had been a previous accident on the farm when someone had driven into a cockies gate because they could not see it. After that accident the standards, which are the vertical supports along the gate, had been painted to make them more visible. However the paint had faded over time.
The accused had not visited the workplace in the 6 months that the victim worked there to identify hazards, assess risks and consider control measures.
Because of the accused’s lack of knowledge of the working environment, it was not aware that the worker had not been provided with an approved helmet for use on the ATV, or of the abovementioned previous accident.
The Accused pleaded guilty.”
The most recent prosecution report provides additional information:
“The Owners manual for the ATV was at another workplace operated by the accused and had never been made available to the farm worker. It said, “Never operate an ATV without wearing an approved motorcycle helmet that fits properly”. Additionally a warning decal displayed on the mudguard of the ATV stated “Always wear an approved motorcycle helmet”
The safety lessons that can be drawn from the incident reports above are:
- Wear the appropriate PPE while riding a quad bike;
- Manufacturer’s safety guidelines or recommendations should be followed;
- Increase the visibility of farm gates;
- Maintain any of these visibility/safety measures;
- Make sure that any control measures introduced meet the long-term needs of the workplace;
- Inform workers about previous incidents on the workplace;
- Instigate an isolated work or working alone process so that workers must check-in regularly to ensure they are safe.
- Labour hire companies must maintain regular contact with their clients to ensure that safety processes, consultation and communication continue to be in place.
WorkSafe WA issued a safety alert in 2009 related to this incident.
Over many years WorkSafe WA has issued many safety alerts and guidances relating to quad bike operation. Below are several links
All told, the worker’s death has had a financial toll of $A80,000. On top of this will be legal costs and the immeasurable emotional loss to the worker’s family, all over a preventable incident or, at least, one where the harm could have been reduced through PPE and better safety management.