Gate accident brings fine

A Ranfurly dairy company has been fined $270,937 over an incident which could have killed a worker had he not been coincidentally wearing a helmet at the time.

Otago Rural Management Ltd, which manages five dairy farms in Ranfurly, was fined in the Queenstown District Court on Wednesday, after being found to be in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act after a worker was injured by a falling gate in June 2017.

WorkSafe said in a statement the injured worker was helping a colleague move the gate when it came off its roller track and struck both men as it fell, resulting in a concussion and spinal injury to the assisting worker.

The other worker suffered minor injuries.

The gate had come off its track on previous occasions, yet the business did not identify it as a risk, or ensure it was remedied appropriately, either to prevent it occurring again or to ensure workers were not put at risk while handling the gate, WorkSafe said.

The organisation said the case showed machinery, not staff, should be used for shifting heavy items.

WorkSafe chief inspector Steve Kelly said had the worker not been coincidentally wearing a quad bike helmet at the time, his injuries could have been far more serious or even fatal.

"Our investigation found that the roller mechanism of the gate frequently came off the fence line. Despite the company’s risk register stating machinery should be used to lift heavy objects wherever possible, we found that the gate and roller were often lifted manually.

"Otago Rural Management had ... no clear policies in place or effective training to prevent workers from attempting to lift heavy machinery themselves."

Otago Rural Management was also ordered to pay the victim $30,000 in reparation for emotional harm and $16,072 for consequential loss.


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