Labour hire company charged over death of worker

‚ÄčNT WorkSafe has charged Tropickist Pty Ltd, a Queensland based labour contracting hire company and one of its Directors David O’Brien, over failures in the workplace which resulted in the death in June 2016 of Josia Benaca Turagatani, a Fijian national who had travelled to Australia on a working visa.

The category 2 offence for failing to comply with section 21 duties under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act, carries a maximum penalty of $300,000 for an officer, and $1,500,000 for a body corporate.

Mr Turagatani was employed as part of a fruit picking team contracted by Tropickist to work on a portion of the Douglas Daly Research Farm leased by King Producers Management Team Pty Ltd to grow watermelons.

On 3 June 2016, Mr Turagatani was found deceased as a result of a motor vehicle rollover on Douglas Daly Research Farm.

NT WorkSafe alleges that Tropickist exposed its workers to a risk of death or serious injury by failing to ensure the work vehicle was properly maintained.  The seatbelt was found to be inoperable, and a tyre had below minimum tread. Mr Turagatani also did not hold an Australian driver’s license and there were no proper worker inductions before he started his employment.

Additional charges have also been laid against Tropickist and David O’Brien for failing, without reasonable excuse, to respond to section 155 notices under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act.  Tropickist and Mr O’Brien failed to cooperate with the Regulator and provide documents during the investigation.

Executive Director NT WorkSafe, Stephen Gelding, says these issues are a serious concern as it is a legal requirement for all companies to maintain vehicles in a safe, roadworthy condition and to comply with the regulator to supply all documents requested during an investigation.

‘All businesses operating in the Northern Territory must take their legal responsibilities very seriously particularly with regard to the safety and wellbeing of their workers.

‘All workers must undergo a proper induction prior to starting work and it is the employers’ legal responsibility to ensure all machinery and vehicles are properly maintained in accordance with manufacturers’ directions.  Workers must also have the appropriate training and licenses required to operate those vehicles and machinery,’ he says.

The maximum penalty for not complying with a section 155 notice under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act, is $50,000 for a corporation, and $10,000 for an individual.

The matter is listed for mention in the Darwin Local Court on 28 June 2018.

Christine Bond
0447 767 101