1 Apr 2014

Fine over runaway tractor death

6:11 pm on 1 April 2014

A farming company has been fined $25,400 over the death of a worker killed by a runaway remote-controlled tractor.

WorkSafe New Zealand chief investigator Keith Stewart said Gursharan Singh was trying to jump on to the tractor after it unexpectedly accelerated.

"Mr Singh was attempting to reach the tractor's controls after it had accelerated unexpectedly from its normal speed of 0.3km/h to 6.7km/h. He was caught by the left hand rear wheel of the tractor and pulled to the ground and run over," Mr Stewart said.

The tractor, which was towing a trailer for broccoli to be loaded into, was operated via a remote control system so a driver did not have to sit at the controls

Mr Singh was under the influence of alcohol and going against instructions when the accident happened, Mr Stewart said.

However, employer Sundale Farms Limited had failed to take all practicable steps to ensure his safety and pleaded guilty to that, under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. It was sentenced in the Pukekohe District Court on Tuesday.

"The tractor was checked at the start of each day to see that it was working correctly but there was no routine maintenance programme," Mr Stewart said.

"Its systems should have been checked regularly, and preventative maintenance carried out."

Remote control tractor systems were common in harvesting operations nationwide, and Mr Stewart said he hoped lessons had been learned from the incident to prevent future tragedies.