The heavy cost of failing to undertake a risk assessment
We all know the importance of undertaking risk assessments to determine the level of risk that hazards pose to both workers and others who may be affected, such as members of the public. The conviction of a New Zealand dairy farm company for breaching work health and safety laws shows just how costly failing to undertake a risk assessment can be – it can cost both dollars and lives.
Wealleans Bay of Plenty Limited (Wealleans) was spreading lime fertiliser from a truck at a dairy farm next to a motorway on 5 February 2020, when the wind blew the white cloud of dust across the motorway, reducing almost all visibility.
A 64-year-old driver, Susan Walmsley, was driving her car when it was completely covered by the dust, causing her to strike the car in front of her. She died as a result of the collision.
The Court found that Wealleans failed to undertake an appropriate risk assessment of the activity, noting that it was a well-known hazard to undertake fertiliser activity in windy conditions. The company did not implement a safe system of work for spreading fertiliser on the farm, which led to a risk of other people being exposed to serious injury and death.
In his decision, Judge Mabey noted the fertiliser driver “was spreading in circumstances where the wind caused third-party risk, was unaware of what was occurring before she stopped and when, finally, a decision to stop was made it was too late”.
A fine of $360,000 was imposed, along with emotional harm reparations of $210,000 and consequential loss reparations of $88,649.
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