Fine over effluent sump drowning
Pig farmers Houtimata Farm Limited has been fined $40,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $75,000 after one of its employees drowned in an unfenced, uncovered effluent sump.
The man was employed as a truck driver and farm worker. On the day in question he was tasked with pumping effluent from the sump into a tanker truck.
He was alone at the time of the incident in August 2014, and it is not clear exactly how he ended up in the sump. His body was found underneath a floating pontoon that housed a pump used to empty the sump. The pontoon had flipped upside down.
Houtimata Farm plead guilty to a charge under section 6 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. It was sentenced today in the Oamaru District Court.
WorkSafe’s chief inspector, Keith Stewart, says the effluent sump was a clear and obvious hazard and Houtimata Farm relied only on verbal instruction to manage the risk.
“Not only was the effluent sump unfenced and uncovered, but there were no warnings signs and nothing had been put in place to stabilise the pontoon. There was no written policy or procedure for pumping out effluent.
“It is not good enough to just hope that no-one will come to harm - you need to actively identify and manage workplace risks.
“Houtimata Farm has now installed a mesh grill over the effluent sump. If that simple safety measure had been in place all along then this incident could have been averted,” says Keith Stewart.
NOTE: Media release amended 22 December 2015 replacing ‘pond’ with ‘sump’ which more accurately describes the work area.