On Sunday 23 May 2016, Queen’s Counsel Ross Ray died after being pinned under a rolled over quad bike on his Victorian hobby farm. According to one early media report, he was not wearing a helmet nor was his quad bike fitted with a crush protection device (CPD). In the past he has represented quad bike manufacturers who object to devices that can protect this type of incident. If the report is true, his death appears ironic but Ross Ray was involved in a lot more occupational health and safety cases than just quad bikes.
Throughout the first decade of this century, the Victorian Coroner, Graeme Johnstone, conducted an inquiry into workplace deaths associated with quad bikes, also known then as All Terrain vehicles (ATVs). From transcripts of the 2007 inquiry seen by SafetyAtWorkBlog, Ray “appeared on behalf of the ATV Manufacturers”. Australian ATV manufacturers and their representative body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) have long opposed the addition of CPDs or Rollover Protection Structures (ROPS) onto quad bikes.
Various media reports and online resources mention safety-related cases that Ross Ray was involved in including
The Grocon wall collapse of 2013,
The Essendon Football Club drug saga in 2015,
The Kerang rail disaster in 2010.
Ray seems to have sometimes defended companies from OHS prosecutions and helped OHS regulators, like WorkSafe Victoria, to prosecute OHS breaches.
The irony of his death is all that some in the OHS sector are focussing on, and it is ironic but it also sells Ross Ray’s career short. Obituaries may gloss over some of the clients he represented and whose side he was representing in his safety-related cases but perhaps Ross Ray’s life needs a more detailed examination – one that not just relates his legal career but also the thoughts of the man behind the career. It seems he was involved in many of the significant OHS cases of the last twenty or thirty years and it is this perspective we should be seeking.
We should also not forget that two other farmers died in workplace accidents in the last week.