A Queensland abattoir has been fined in the Maryborough Magistrates Court after it failed to ensure the health and safety of a worker and exposed him to the risk of death.
The company was fined $200,000 for the death of a worker who suffered fatal injuries in 2017 when he was struck by a ramp while unloading a triple-deck truck laden with pigs.
Colin Chivers, who initially suffered critical injuries but died nine days later, had only been with the abattoir a month when the incident occurred. The 39 year old labourer had no previous experience unloading livestock, no formal qualifications nor training in the trade.
The court heard that during a livestock delivery a truck driver called for help and Mr Chivers came to the aid of the man to help stop the pigs jumping off the newly raised ramp near the holding yard, when it started moving in a see-sawing motion. The pigs continued moving, adding extra weight to the ramp when the cross bar suddenly dropped trapping Mr Chivers between the ramp and the ground.
A company director remorsefully pleaded guilty and was fined $15,000 for failing to ensure the company complied with its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Magistrate Terry Duroux expressed to the court that the director, one of four directors of the family-owned company, was solely responsible for the daily operational management, including all 52 workers.
Magistrate Duroux noted the company is the largest employer in North Burnett and the matter was tragic and extremely serious. He called for a significant penalty despite the company never being previously prosecuted for a work health and safety incident before.
His Honour said the company provided financial assistance in good faith so that Mr Chivers’ family could travel to Brisbane immediately after the incident, but even after court proceedings are finalised, it’s highly unlikely they will ever have closure on his death.
The court heard that no risk assessment, engineering or independent certification had been undertaken or was in place. There was no understanding of the impacts of the weight that the worker would be unloading onto the modified ramp.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland engineering reports identified numerous issues with the modified ramp. In particular, it was identified that it would take less than two large backfatter pigs off loaded onto the ramp to cause instability.