Agricultural contractor fined for the death of fatigued worker

Work fatigue should not compromise worker safety. This is the message WorkSafe New Zealand wants to share with employers and workers following the sentencing of an agricultural contractor for the death of a worker in 2016.

In October of that year, a worker for the company had been assisting with harvesting operations on a farm in Pukekawa. He logged a 16.75 hour day before departing the farm, taking a tractor home in preparation for the next day’s work. He, however, crashed the tractor and died as a result of injuries sustained during the accident.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that the man worked 197.25 hours in the two weeks leading up to the incident. Fatigue was identified as the most likely cause of the incident. The worker was not wearing a seatbelt.

“Getting the job done is important, but not if the hours required to do it put workers at risk of injury or death,” said WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries.

The company has a health and safety document in place and identified fatigue as a high rating hazard and outlined management steps including the monitoring of work hours and break times.

“This document had not been reviewed or implemented,” Mr. Humphries said.

“Seasonal work and tasks like harvest can put a huge amount of pressure on everyone involved. Managing the risks is essential. The life, health, and wellbeing of your workers must be your number one priority.”

The court indicated that a fine of $ 325,000 could have been appropriate but a final fine of $ 10,000 was imposed plus reparation of $ 80,000.

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