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January 29, 2022

Business owner fined over Bilambil mower driver’s death

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A lawn mowing and property maintenance business owner has been fined $160,000 over the death of a worker at a property at Bilambil Heights in 2012.

The worker was fatally crushed when the tractor he was driving rolled over while he was slashing overgrown grass and vegetation on a slope at the residential property.

A SafeWork NSW investigation found that the tractor’s Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) was tied down with a piece of ‘ockey’ strap in the incorrect position and that the seat belt buckle had been removed for repairs.

The investigation also found that the tractor had rolled over at the property before but no workers were injured because the ROPS were in the correct position.

SafeWork NSW charged the owner of the business, Gregory Dunn, with a breach of section 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to ensure the health and safety of the worker.

SafeWork alleged Mr Dunn failed to ensure that the tractor was properly maintained and safe, including that there were no obstructions that would prevent or impede workers from raising the ROPS and that the seatbelt was operational.

SafeWork also alleged Mr Dunn failed to provide safety documents which would have identified possible hazards; and failed to provide training, information and instruction to the worker.

Mr Dunn was found guilty in the District Court and fined $160,000.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the fine was significant for a small business owner but justified given the reckless approach to safety.

‘Mr Dunn knew that the tractor had rolled over at the premises before,’ Mr Dunphy said

‘Despite this he made the worker slash the grass on the slope with the ROPS in the incorrect position and the seatbelt buckle removed.

‘This decision sends strong a message that if you take a cavalier approach to safety, SafeWork NSW will pursue you to the full extent of the law.’

SafeWork NSW advises that tractors, and related implements and attachments, must be maintained and guarded in line with industry standards and manufacturers’ requirements.

Most tractors must also be fitted with ROPS and workers must be properly inducted, trained and supervised, especially inexperienced and young operators.

Further information on tractor safety is available at www.safework.nsw.gov.au The NSW Department of Primary Industries also runs courses on safe tractor operation and maintenance.

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