Farm owners fined $275,000 after accident claims life of volunteer worker

The victim was in a  utility task vehicle when the accident took place.
The victim was in a utility task vehicle when the accident took place. Photo credit: File / Getty

A beef, sheep and deer farm has been fined $275,000 after an accident in 2018 claimed the life of a volunteer worker.

The owners of N.E. Parkers & Sons appeared in the Nelson District Court earlier this week. In addition to the fine they were ordered to pay reparations of $110,535.

The victim had been working as a WOOFer (willing worker on organic farms) in exchange for food and accommodation when the accident took place.

She died after the utility task vehicle - commonly referred to as a side-by-side - she was travelling in fell 13 metres down a hillside after the driver lost control.

The woman was ejected from her seat, and the vehicle eventually came to rest on top of her and she died from crushing injuries.

The driver pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving causing death and was discharged without conviction in August 2018.

A WorkSafe investigation found one door of the vehicle had been removed and neither seatbelts nor helmets were being used, contrary to advice from the manufacturer and WorkSafe. 

The investigation also found that one seatbelt was not working, and the driver's seatbelt warning system was not properly working.

"The safety of the vehicle had been compromised," WorkSafe's area manager Danielle Henry said on Thursday.

"Safety features fitted to the vehicle had not been maintained. However, the business still allowed workers and visitors to the farm to operate an unsafe vehicle.

"These vehicles are used every day on farms right across the country. They have safety features for a reason and maintenance of these is imperative. If those features aren't working as they should and you can't supply appropriate personal protective equipment, then no one should be driving it."