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Thursday, 07 March 2019 12:38

Brake failure brings big fine

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A Gore farm machinery company’s shoddy repairs to a tractor have landed it with a fine of $239,063 and reparations of $103,459 awarded to an injured farm worker.

Read: Farmers must accept individual responsibility for the industry’s poor health and safety record, says an industry health and safety leader.

“Vehicle service industries must ensure diligent workmanship, systems and practices in the work they do to prevent injuries to users,” says WorkSafe head of specialist interventions, Simon Humphries.

His comments arise from the recent sentencing in the Gore District Court of farm machinery business Agricentre South Ltd for its ineffective repairs to the brakes on a tractor it supplied: the brakes failed and the machine ran over a worker.

Michele Bastiaansen suffered leg wounds and fractures to her neck vertebrae, humorous and wrist when she fell from a trailer being towed by a tractor driven by her husband Francis.

The company in 2015 bought (as a trade-in) a 2002 New Holland tractor, determined that the brakes were not working properly, and so replaced the brake master cylinders, expecting this work to rectify the problem. But it did not determine why the parts had failed.

During a pre-purchase trial in early April 2016, the Bastiaansens were using the tractor and a trailer to transport timber to a shed with Mrs Bastiaansen aboard the trailer. 

While driving up a 25-degree slope, Francis Bastiaansen applied the brakes but they did not stop the tractor. The combination rolled backwards down the incline, jack-knifed and the trailer detached from the tractor. Mrs Bastiaansen was thrown from the trailer into the roadway where the tractor rolled over her.

WorkSafe found that Agricentre South did not tell its staff about the tractor’s repair history, did not ensure the tractor had working brakes and did not get the warning lights reconnected and working after the repair job.

“The vehicle servicing industry, including companies servicing farm machinery, needs exceptional diligence to ensure the safety of the users of vehicles and plant,” Humphries said.

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