First conviction for driving fatigue fatality

The District Court has released its first decision for fatigue related failings under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (the Act).

Micheal Vining Contracting Ltd (MVC) was convicted, fined $10,000 and ordered to pay further reparations of $80,000 and costs of $2,656.50 in relation to the death of one of its tractor drivers. The fine ordered was a reduction from the Court’s original assessment of $325,000, although the reasons for the reduction have been suppressed.

The worker was killed when the tractor he was driving crashed in the early hours of the morning. He was not wearing a seatbelt and died as a result of his injuries. At the time of the accident, the worker was on his way home from a 16.75 hour day. The worker had also worked over 197 hours in the two weeks leading up to the accident assisting with harvesting operations. The WorkSafe investigation concluded that fatigue was the most likely cause of the accident.

MVC was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Act with failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers. WorkSafe commented that the although MVC had a health and safety document in place, which identified fatigue as a high risk and the steps that could be taken to manage the risk (such as monitoring hours of work and taking regular breaks), it had not been reviewed or implemented at the time of the accident.

This is a stark reminder that fatigue is a hazard to be carefully considered and addressed especially for workers operating vehicles and machinery.

We will continue to monitor further developments in this area, particularly as more sentencing decisions under the Act make their way through the courts. If you have questions about this update, or health and safety matters more generally, our team would be happy to assist you.

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