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Husband and wife directors fined for safety incident on pineapple farm

A Queensland company, and its husband and wife directors, were found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a worker who became trapped under a moving trailer while working on a pineapple farm (WHS Qld v Scocan Holdings Pty Ltd [2024]).

The incident occurred when a trailer that was used to move bins of fruit was also being used to move workers between picking sites. The practice of using the trailer to move workers had been allowed, although workers were told not to sit with their legs hanging over the edge of the trailer.

On the day of the incident, the tractor was being driven by the team leader who invited the workers to either sit on the trailer or walk to the next site. The three bins containing the pineapples occupied most of the trailer space. Some of the workers were able to sit down, while the rest were left to squat or stand on the back of the trailer. The injured worker, who was only 19 years old, sat just above the trailer wheel guard with his legs overhanging the side of the trailer. His feet dragged along the floor while the trailer was in motion.

While the team leader was driving, the injured workers’ foot hit an object on the floor, forcing his foot under the trailer wheels. This caused the injured worker to fall off the trailer. The wheels of the 3-tonne trailer then passed over the injured worker’s body and head, causing him significant injuries.

The company and its directors unsuccessfully defended the charges, and were found guilty of breaching their health and safety duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld). Although the injured worker had not followed the direction regarding where to sit, the Magistrate found that the company was still culpable based on evidence that the trailer was overcrowded and the fact that there were other available means to ensure the safety of the workers on the trailer.

The company was fined $65,000 and each director was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

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