Otago dairy farming company fined $270,000 after worker suffers spinal injury

the conveyor of filling and packaging of drinks in cardboard container. equipment at the dairy plant
Photo credit: File / Getty

A dairy farming company was fined more than $270,000 in the Queenstown District Court on Wednesday after a worker suffered a spinal injury.

Otago Rural Management Limited was found to have breached a number of sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act in a 2017 incident.

A worker was helping a colleague move a gate when it came off its roller track and struck both men as it fell, resulting in a concussion and spinal injury to one of the workers. The other worker suffered minor injuries.

Had the seriously injured worker not coincidentally been wearing a quad bike helmet at the time, his injuries could have been far worse or even fatal, said WorkSafe's chief inspector Steve Kelly.

The injury was a reminder that machinery should be used for lifting heavy items, not staff, Kelly said.

"Our investigation found that the roller mechanism of the gate frequently came off the fence line. Despite the company's risk register stating machinery should be used to lift heavy objects wherever possible, we found that the gate and roller were often lifted manually.

"Otago Rural Management had failed to carry out regular audits to ensure that any problems with plants were fixed. They also had no clear policies in place or effective training to prevent workers from attempting to lift heavy machinery themselves."

The company manages five dairy farms in Ranfurly. It was fined $270,937 and ordered to pay the victim $30,000 in reparations for emotional harm and $16,072 for consequential loss.