An incident in which a woman was killed by a truck reversing from a machinery shed has led to an $80,000 fine for a Werribee vegetable grower and a $15,000 fine for a labour hire company which supplied workers to the property.
The vegetable grower company, J & K Zausa Investments, and Perica Simic, who ran the labour hire company, were prosecuted after the death of Katerina Hrecesin, 61, who died in December 2008.
The penalties were significant for small businesses and should send a clear message about the commercial impact of what can happen when appropriate standards are not in place or maintained, said WorkSafe Victoria’s director of operations, Lisa Sturzenegger,
“Traffic management has to be a priority on all farms, just as in other workplaces. Not ensuring there are systems in place to control the risk of collision between people and vehicles has serious consequences,” she said.
County Court Judge Irene Lawson was told WorkSafe’s investigation into the death of Hrecesin found traffic management at the Werribee South farm was poor and that a number of safety improvements had to be made after the incident.
These included marked walkways, plastic bollards and chains, as well as signage and induction of new workers.
The court was told the truck’s reversing beeper was working, but the driver did not see the woman, who other workers said had bent down to pick-up something off the ground.
The incident occurred during a harvesting period, in which risks were elevated, according to Sturzenegger.
“This issue can be applied at any farm in the state, however in the market gardening sector the risks must be magnified because of the constant use of vehicles and machinery and the fact that several crops might be grown each year,” she said.
“This case demonstrates that safety responsibilities are shared between the host employer and the labour hire firm, and that identifying and dealing with safety issues must be done before someone is hurt, not after.”