A North Queensland farm business which used quad bikes to muster cattle has been fined $125,000 following the 2013 death of a 21-year-old female worker.
Employed as a station hand who also assisted with mustering, the inexperienced worker was not wearing a helmet when she came off the quad bike and sustained fatal head injuries.
Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Dr Simon Blackwood said this was a classic case of an employer not doing the right thing.
“No helmet and no rider training – two of the golden rules of quad bike safety ignored,” said Dr Blackwood.
“If employers aren’t prepared to play by the rules, then they are going to feel the full force of the law. That could mean hefty fines or convictions, or even both.
“We have to make sure everyone adheres to the appropriate regulations, but if they don’t, we’re going to come down hard.”
In this particular incident, the court deemed the defendant failed to ensure their UK employee was wearing a helmet while using the quad bike and she had no previous experience mustering.
Magistrate Steven Mosch accepted prosecution submissions identifying:
quad bikes give rise to a number of fatal and non-fatal incidences each year
that rider experience is a relevant consideration
that riders should be trained in safe operating practices
that helmets should be worn.
He also accepted that there is community and rural industry awareness of the risks of quad bikes, highlighted by several coronial inquests in recent years.
The magistrate fined the defendant $125,000 and ordered professional and court costs of $1083.50. In deciding the penalty, he took into consideration that the company entered an early guilty plea.
In reaching his decision to not record the conviction, the magistrate took into account that the defendant had operated cattle stations for more than 20 years without breaching work health and safety laws. He also noted that the company’s operators had shown significant remorse, not reoffended and taken significant rehabilitative steps in the three years since the incident.
For more information on work health and safety prosecutions, visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au or call 1300 362 128.