Farmer in court after tractor fatality

Tractors are an integral part of farm businesses, but they are also a key contributor to our agricultural industry’s unacceptable number of farm deaths. In the last six years, 30 New Zealanders have died while using them.

WorkSafe is warning farmers that they are legally required to have an effective way of identifying and managing the risks involved in their work on farms. This includes the risks involved in the use of vehicles.

The message follows the sentencing of Scott Alexander McRae in the North Shore District Court last week, after a worker on his Wellsford farm was killed in a tractor incident in December 2016. 

The worker was driving a tractor and towing a trailer carrying two bales of bailage when he lost traction on a sloped piece of land.  The tractor and trailer jackknifed, resulting in the tractor rolling and fatally injuring the driver.

WorkSafe’s investigation found systemic failures by McRae to do a risk assessment of the entire farm and the work tasks taking place on it.  It also found that he had failed to identify the need for a maintained and effective roll over protection on the tractor, after it was found to be severely corroded. This was contrary to guidance on roll over protective structures on tractors.

WorkSafe’s Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries commented, “A health and safety system helps you as an employer to identify the risks that might kill or seriously injure yourself, your workers and others on your farm.  It’s not about adding paperwork or having more work to do.  It’s about incorporating it in what you do every day and ensuring that everyone can head home healthy and safe at the end of it.”

“The failures on behalf of the duty holder showed a general lack engagement in health and safety matters. There were shortcomings throughout the operation and this is a tragic instance where these failures have been realised.”

Notes:

  • A fine of $70,000 was imposed.
  • Reparations of $130,000 were ordered.
  • Scott Alexander McRae was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(b) 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 at work in the business or undertaking.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $300,000.

Media contact details

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Email: media@worksafe.govt.nz