A mobile plant supplier and a business growing and harvesting bananas were both fined recently in the Tully Magistrates Court for their part in a potentially serious incident involving a backpacker from the Netherlands.
On 4 September 2015, the overseas worker was driving a tractor when it veered off a farm road and into a drainage ditch. He was thrown from it and sustained minor injuries. The tractor was fitted with a roll-over protective structure, but no seatbelt.
Last month, two defendant companies pleaded guilty to breaching their obligations under work health and safety laws.
Magistrate Cathy McLennan fined the company which supplied the tractor $2000 with no conviction recorded. The other company was using the tractor as part of its banana growing business and was fined $1000, again with no conviction recorded.
For both companies, Magistrate McLennan took into account the lack of a seatbelt may have been an oversight, neither caused the incident itself and they promptly fitted seatbelts to all tractors within days, improved their work health and safety procedures generally and cooperated with the investigation. She labelled both defendants good corporate citizens.
“Luckily no-one was seriously hurt, but that’s no excuse for breaching safety obligations,” Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Dr Simon Blackwood said.
“The fines were not huge, but the potential for disaster was.
“Because of this, we believe that a penalty of a $2000 fine for a tractor supplier not having seatbelts fitted to its vehicles is inadequate and we’ve appealed the decision.
“We want to send out a message that it’s not okay to take shortcuts or that you can’t plead it was an oversight.
“You must protect your workers, always, as they have a right to go home to their families safe and sound at the end of every shift.”
For more information on work health and safety prosecutions, visit worksafe.qld.gov.au.