1 min read

Hefty fine for business that failed to implement a safe operating procedure

WorkSafe Victoria v Covino Farms Pty Ltd (2017)


Covino Farms Pty Ltd (the Company) operated a vegetable growing business that used a tractor to plant seeds. In addition to operating the tractor, an employee was also required to check if the seeds were planted properly. On 31 January 2015, an employee slowed the tractor to 3kph, put it into low gear and stepped down from the moving tractor to check on the seeds. In the process, the employee fell to the ground and was run over by the seeder attached to the tractor. They sustained a dislocated neck, fractured ribs and a fractured cheek bone.


The Court considered the systems of work in place at the time of the incident. In particular, after considering the manner in which the tractor operated and the employee’s required task of checking the planting, the Magistrate concluded there was a foreseeable risk of death or serious injury to employees. The Court concluded that it was reasonably practicable for the employee to reduce this risk by developing a safe operating procedure for the use of tractors. The Magistrate stated this safe operating procedure should prohibit disembarking from moving tractors. The Company was fined $70,000 and ordered to pay costs of $22,933.12.


Companies must ensure they have safe operating procedures for all work activities. In cases where the system of work exposes a worker to an unnecessary risk to their health and safety, the process should be modified. A failure to take these steps will result in significant penalties.

Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.

Subscribe to the Health & Safety Bulletin

From the experts behind the Health & Safety Handbook, the Bulletin brings you the latest work health and safety news, legal updates, case law and practical advice straight to your inbox every week.

Sending confirmation email...
Great! Now check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription.
Please enter a valid email address!