Prosecutions

A Hop grower has been fined $130,000 after a worker was killed in a trailer fall.

Neville Victor Handcock was sentenced in Wodonga County Court on 3 April. The defendant pleaded guilty to two contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Handcock failed to provide a safe system of work as employees were asked to ride on fully loaded hop trailers, which led to the death of a worker in March 2017 when Handcock told an inexperienced seasonal worker to drive a tractor towing two trailers full of freshly cut hop vines back to the farm's main shed for processing.

Two employees rode on the draw bar of the first trailer, while holding onto the back of the tractor. A third worker rode on the second trailer. The driver lost control of the tractor while travelling downhill on a wet and unsealed section of Upper Fifteen Mile Creek Road, the court was told.

The two employees on the first trailer jumped clear but the third worker, aged 47, riding on the second trailer was found on the road with serious head injuries. He was airlifted to hospital but eventually passed away.

Cases such as this could in future be exposed to industrial manslaughter laws, meaning Handcock could have potentially found himself in jail rather than simply copping a fine.

Retail manager fined on bullying charges.

A retail manager of a company selling nuts and dried fruits has been fined $7,500 for bullying an employee.

Courts were told that between the 3rd of June and 28th of November 2016, Matthew John Sallama, 39, threatened to deduct money from the workers payslip for e-tag expenses in an attempt to "burn" his wages, threatened to sack him and not to pay for his immigration visa.

Of course, the worker's health was affected by the bullying. Courts found that the behaviour of the employer caused him distress, depression and fearfulness.

The total amount of fines for the incident reached $87,500 under section 21(1) & (2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide a work environment and systems that were safe and without risk to health.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety Adam Watson said workplace bullying was an abhorrent practice that had to be stamped out. "It poses a serious risk to a worker's mental health, and the effects can have a lifelong impact - not only on the individual being bullied but their family as well… I'm pleased the court held the same view."

It's worth noting that previously, the company had also been fined $60,000 for seven return-to-work offences relating to making late payments and failing to provide suitable post-injury employment to the same worker.

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