Crushed to death after tractor drove off wall
A LAWN mowing business owner whose worker was crushed to death after driving a tractor off a retaining wall has been fined $160,000.
Gregory Paul Dunn pleaded guilty to the NSW District Court to failing to comply with his health and safety duty to his employee David Pierce.
Dunn ran Murwillumbah business That's Slashing and Tipper Hire as a sole trader, offering property clearing and maintenance services such as lawn mowing.
He employed Mr Pierce as a casual worker in December 2012 on a trial basis as a general labourer and machine operator.
Mr Pierce had about three years experience in the industry and had previously worked for Dunn on a casual basis for several years.
Mr Pierce was contracted to slash overgrown grass at a Tweed St property in Bilambil Heights on December 19, 2012, using Dunn's 2008 Kubota tractor.
He had slashed the grass on the same property two or three times a year for the past two or three years.
The court heard the tractor had rolled off the property's same retaining wall about six months earlier, and that the tractor's roll-over protective structure had been deployed and kept its driver safe.
Dunn told Mr Pierce not to slash near the retaining wall this time, in what a witness described as a three-minute discussion while Mr Pierce sat in the structure.
Dunn then left to work about a kilometre away.
"Mr Pierce commenced operating the tractor with a slasher attached to it,” Judge Andrew Scotting said.
"He was observed at the site to drive the tractor to the bottom of the slope and then reverse back up the slope.
"A short time later witnesses heard a loud noise and then silence.”
Mr Pierce died at the scene from his injuries.
Investigations revealed the roll-over protective structure had been folded down and fastened with an elastic strap, and the seatbelt buckle had been removed.
"The offender told SafeWork that he had provided Mr Pierce with the verbal induction and about 30 to 40 hours of on-the-job training,” Judge Scotting said.
"He told SafeWork that he had instructed Mr Pierce to leave the (roll-over protective structure) up as much as he could unless he needed to go under anything low.”
Judge Scotting said the gravity of the risk was "very, very serious” and deemed the offence to be in the high range of seriousness.
He recorded the conviction and fined Dunn $160,000, half of which would be paid to SafeWork, as well as $26,500 towards SafeWork's legal costs.