Farmer fined after worker left with broken skull

An Otago farmer has been fined after substandard equipment resulted in a worker being seriously injured, leaving him with life-long disabilities.

The truck driver was left with a skull fracture and significant head injuries after a stock loading ramp used to unload sheep from a truck fell on him in October 2017 when its winch system failed.

In a decision released by the Dunedin District Court this week, Palmerston-based farmer Robert Kirk Ashton was fined $33,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $40,000.

The court found Ashton had not ensured the 250-300kg stock loading ramp he owned was safe.

A WorkSafe investigation found the ramp handle could dislodge from the winch shaft, and no automatic brake system was in place for when the ramp was being lowered.

WorkSafe said the incident was a reminder all stock loading ramps should be fitted with an automatic brake winch system to prevent unwinding

Head of specialist interventions Simon Humphries said the worker had spent almost a month in hospital and was unable to work for nine months following the incident. 

"The safety of workers can't be left to chance and this worker has life-long vision and hearing impairments as a result of a farmer's substandard equipment," he said.

"Take the time to check your gear and if you have any concerns, engage a competent engineer to take a look and get things tidied up before your next truck arrives."