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Fatigue from long hours of work must not compromise worker safety.
“Getting the job done is important, but not if the hours required to do it put workers at risk of injury or death,” says WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries.
His comments follow the sentencing of agricultural contractor Micheal Vining Contracting Limited in Huntly District Court.
In October 2016, 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. At 2.45am he crashed the tractor and died as a result of injuries sustained during the accident.
Our investigation found that the worker had worked 197.25 hours in the two weeks leading up to the incident. Fatigue was identified as the most likely cause of the accident. The worker was also not wearing a seatbelt.
The company had a health and safety document prepared for them in January 2016. It 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 says. “The warning was there and the company did nothing about it.”
“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. The court supressed the reasons why a final fine of $10,000 was imposed.
- Reparation of $80,000 was ordered.
- Costs of $2656.50 were ordered.
- Micheal Vining Contracting Limited was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
- Being a PCBU, failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking and that failure exposed the workers to a risk of serious injury or death, arising from fatigue.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.
- This is the first sentencing for fatigue-related failings since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
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