Farm safety in the spotlight
Health and Safety / 21 July 2021
Despite the increased emphasis on workplace safety, agriculture was overrepresented as the second highest industry for fatalities in the last year.
In this case, two volunteer farm workers died in a vehicle accident. The farm owner argued it was not to blame as the worker had not worn a seatbelt.
The farm owner was fined $275,000 for failing to ensure the farm vehicle involved was safe for use, with the WorkSafe investigation finding one seatbelt and the driver’s seatbelt warning system were not working, that one door had been removed and that both seatbelts and helmets were not being used. The farm owner knew the door had been removed, but was unaware of the other faults.
The defendant’s risk register had identified the possibility of a roll over as a hazard but it had not inducted the volunteers to this because they were not employees.
The incident should have been survivable if the vehicle had a fully operable roll cage and the occupants had worn seatbelts.
The Court rejected the idea that the occupant’s carelessness towards the use of seatbelts would absolve the defendant’s liability, noting that would undercut the policy intention of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
Message for Employers
Employers have an obligation to identify and manage hazards and to protect volunteers’ safety in their workplace in the same way as employees. Employers should also be mindful that worker’s lack of knowledge, understanding or even carelessness with regards to their own safety will not absolve their own responsibilities and liability when incidents occur.
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Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law, health and safety and immigration topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.