Otago Southland coroner David Crerar has called for every
worker's employment contract to reinforce the fact wearing seat
belts is compulsory in work vehicles.
The recommendation was included in his finding into the death
of two young people in a shearing-van crash at Poolburn two
He said the major contributor to the deaths of Stewart
Hetaraka Smith (20) and Lavenia Setefano (19) was their
failure to wear seat belts.
They were part of a shearing gang heading into the Ida Valley
for work on September 18, 2008, when the van they were
travelling in left the road and rolled, 4km east of Poolburn.
They were thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.
The driver, Pagan Rimene, of Alexandra, admitted charges of
careless driving causing injury and careless driving causing
death and was sentenced to 300 hours' community work last
She was also ordered to pay $7000 in emotional-harm
reparation and disqualified from driving for 18 months.
Mr Crerar said it was the legal responsibility of adults to
use a seat belt in a vehicle but he had anecdotal evidence of
"general neglect" in the use of seat belts by
"I do not know why there is the reported reluctance by
employees in the wool harvest industry to use seat belts, but
they fail to protect themselves at their peril."
Employers should enforce seat-belt use, with reference to the
matter in workers' employment contracts, he said.
He suggested the person in charge of each crew of shearers
and woolhandlers, who usually drove the vehicle transporting
them, should not start the vehicle until all employees had
their belts fastened.
"I repeat, the obligation would be under the employment
contract as well as under the Transport Act."
Mr Crerar has also asked for a national review of the safety
of vehicles transporting employees to and from work and said
employers should be encouraged to use the safest possible
vehicles and ensure drivers were trained appropriately.
"The focus of the inquest hearing [in Alexandra on November
11] was the need for employers - and specifically those
engaged in the wool-harvest industry - to ensure appropriate
work and travel practices for their employees," Mr Crerar
His findings were sent to the New Zealand Shearing Industry
health and safety committee, the Department of Labour, the
Minister of Labour and the New Zealand Transport Agency.
The issue of vehicle safety should be addressed by the
shearing industry and the appropriate government agencies, he
The Smith and Setefano families had questioned whether a
person with a restricted licence should have been driving the
shearing gang that day and also questioned the suitability of
a Toyota Previa as a vehicle for transporting shearers.
Mr Crerar found the vehicle was "as suitable as any and more
suitable than most vehicles being used in those
The vehicle came through the crash with its structure
The coroner said he was satisfied Mr Smith and Miss Setefano
would have survived had they been wearing seat belts.
"I trust that the recommendations I have made will bring
comfort to the whanau and will have an outcome of a safer
work environment for the shearers and woolhandlers of New
Asked to comment on the findings, acting Southern District
road policing manager Senior Sergeant Steve Larking said a
seat belt was the "simplest and easiest piece of safety
equipment to use that can save your life if you're in a
The failure of drivers and passengers to wear seat belts
contributed to deaths and injuries on the roads time and time
again, he said.