The District Court has dismissed charges under the Health & Safety at Work Act against a kiwifruit orchard and the pack house following the death of a worker on the kiwifruit farm.

The worker was employed by another organisation to sample kiwifruit for the pack house on the property of the farm owner.  The worker used a quad bike for that sampling operation and was instructed to remain only on mown grass and formed tracks on any farm she entered.  For some unknown reason the worker, having finished work at one of the kiwifruit blocks on the orchard, rode her quad bike up a hill into an area of hazardous terrain.  The quad bike rolled on top of her and she was killed.

In an earlier hearing her employer had pleaded guilty to charges under the Act. 

The District Court decided that the orchard owner could not have taken any further practical steps to keep the worker safe. They had no control over the worker and had no reason to think that she would leave the kiwifruit orchard part of the farm and drive to an area of the farm where she was not required to be and should not have been. Likewise the pack house had no control over the worker and the maps it had of the farm showed all hazards within the area the employee was supposed to work.  The pack house had no means of knowing that the employee would leave those areas and go to areas where she was not supposed to be and so could not have taken any practical steps to prevent her death.

While finding that both defendants in this case had defences to the charges brought, the Judge was critical of the industry as a whole, for failing to do better to prevent this avoidable workplace death.

Alan Knowsley

Health & Safety Lawyer