Almost all commercial sprayers in New Zealand operate
overloaded vehicles, a Brighton businessman says.
Kim Rapley, the former owner of Otago Spraying Ltd, gave
evidence in a coroner's inquest at Dunedin yesterday.
Mr Rapley sold the business last year to former employee John
Ross McLean, two weeks before Mr McLean (61) was found dead
beside his spraying truck on a rural property near McLaren
Rd, Maungatua, on February 16.
Police concluded Mr McLean had been crushed by his 1994
Toyota Land Cruiser as he tried to stop it from rolling
backwards down a slope.
Evidence at yesterday's inquest centred on whether the
vehicle, with a 1000-litre spray tank on the back, was
overloaded at the time.
It appeared Mr McLean, of Mosgiel, left the vehicle idling,
in neutral, with the handbrake on, when he stopped to open a
fence on a steep rural track, and when the ute started to
roll backwards, he tried to stop it or steer it towards an
The vehicle hit the bank and rolled on to its side, crushing
Mr McLean, and then rolled on to its roof, Constable Donald
Peat, of Mosgiel, said.
Mr Rapley said the ute, on such a slope, should have been
placed in low gear with the handbrake applied, the wheels
turned towards the bank and the engine off.
The vehicle had a gross vehicle weight, set by the
manufacturer, of 3050kg.
With no spray in the tank, and no-one inside, it weighed
That meant the vehicle became overloaded when the spray tank
was less than a third full.
Mr Rapley said it was commonplace in the industry for
vehicles to be used while overloaded.
''I think you would probably find that every spray company in
New Zealand, or about 90% of them, have overweight vehicles
when the tanks are fully loaded. I don't trust handbrakes,
full stop. I've had a close scare myself,'' he said.
Mr McLean was an experienced driver and sprayer, and had used
the Toyota as an employee of Otago Spraying Ltd before he
bought the business and the vehicle from Mr Rapley.
The Toyota was warranted and found to be in good working
order by investigators for the New Zealand Transport Agency
and WorkSafe New Zealand on behalf of the Ministry of
Business, Innovation and Employment.
WorkSafe New Zealand health and safety inspector Peter
Verwey, of Dunedin, said Mr McLean had attended a ''site
safe'' course the day before the incident.
Mr Verwey estimated the spray tank had between 100 and 150
litres of chemical inside it when the truck rolled, although
Mr Rapley estimated it had up to 300 litres inside it at the
time, based on the amount spilled.
There were no breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment
Act 1992 by any party, Mr Verwey said.
Coroner Richard McElrea, of Christchurch, reserved his
decision, to be released in written findings.