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Prosecution Details

Offender "The State of Western Australia" - Responsible Agency Department of Education

Charges

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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 GN1360/10 16 May 2007 14th September 2010 3A(2)(b)(i) $50,000.00 (Global) 14th September 2010
2 GN1361/10 16 May 2007 14th September 2010 3A(3)(b)(i) $50,000.00 (Global) 14th September 2010
Description of Breach(es)

Charge 1: (In regards to the Teacher )  - The Accused being an employer did not so far as practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and contravened sections 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. 

Charge2: (In regards to the injured Student 3) - The Accused being an employer, did not so far as was practicable, ensure that the safety or health of a person, not being an employee of the Accused, was not adversely affected wholly or in part as a result of work that was being undertaken by the Accused or any employee of the Accused, or any hazard that arose from or was increased by the work of the Accused or the system of work that was being operated by the Accused and by that contravention caused serious harm to a person not being its employee, contravened sections 21(2) and 21A(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused ran the Western Australian College of Agriculture at Morawa.  The college provided education and training for the agricultural and related industries.

The machinery the college owned included a rotary hoe and two tractors.  The tractors were a Case MX135 and a Ford 6600 tractor.

The rotary hoe was used at the school approximately twice a year and was usually connected to the Case tractor.  The rotary hoe could be connected to the Case tractor in the proper sequence.  The proper sequence was to connect the link arms before connecting the cardan shaft.  The tractor arms are known as link arms because they link the tractor to a piece of machinery such as a rotary hoe. When connected the cardan shaft carries power from the tractor to the rotary hoe and is the only source of power for the rotary hoe. On 16 May 2007, an employee of the Accused, was teaching two students, to attach a rotary hoe to a tractor and then use them to turn over some earth.  

The Teacher was an experienced farm worker and had connected the rotary hoe to the Case tractor, using the proper sequence, many times previously without incident. On 16 May 2007 the Case tractor was being used elsewhere on the farm property, so The Teacher decided to use the Ford tractor instead.  Until shortly before 16 May 2007, the Ford tractor had been mostly connected to a post hole digger until it was damaged and removed from the Ford tractor.  This meant that the Ford tractor was available on 16 May 2007 for the Teacher to use to connect up the rotary hoe.

Under the direction and supervision of the Teacher, Student 1 had reversed the tractor up to the rotary hoe and Student 2 and the Teacher connected both link arms of the tractor to the rotary hoe.  The Teacher and the students then tried to connect the cardan shaft to the tractor and rotary hoe.  The shaft would not connect as it was longer than the distance between the tractor and the rotary hoe with the link arms connected. The length of the link arms could not be adjusted because both link arms were faulty.  The locking tag which lifted so the link arms could be extended was missing on each link arm.  In addition to this the right link arm (whilst facing the rear of tractor) was welded so its length was not adjustable.   The Teacher and the students went to lunch without successfully connecting the tractor to the rotary hoe.  After lunch the Teacher and the students continued the exercise of connecting the tractor and rotary hoe so that they could then be operated.  However, due to class scheduling, Student 3 took Student 2's place. 

The Teacher and the students disconnected the tractor from the rotary hoe and connected the cardan shaft.  The cardan shaft should not have been connected unless the link arms were already connected.  With the tractor engine off, the Teacher engaged the cardan shaft lever on the tractor so that he could manually align the splines of the unit to the connection point on the rotary hoe. The Teacher then returned the lever to the off position, disengaging the cardan shaft.  The Teacher then tried to connect the tractor to the rotary hoe.  The Teacher stood between the tractor and the rotary hoe and instructed Student 3 to stand in the same position on the other side of the cardan shaft.  They had their backs to the tractor and held the arms of the tractor ready to connect them to the rotary hoe.  The safety rules of the College, forbid anyone standing behind a tractor while it was running.

The Teacher told Student 1 to start the tractor while Student 3 and the Teacher were between the tractor and the rotary hoe. Student 1 started the tractor but quickly hit the kill switch as he thought that the rotary hoe was making an unusual sound.  After Student 1 had started the tractor the cardan shaft had provided power to the rotary hoe for a short period of time.  The link arms were not attached so this caused the rotary hoe to move forward towards the back of the tractor and towards the teacher and student.  The rotary hoe knocked over the teacher and caught Student 3 by the foot and dragged her under the rotary hoe up to her waist.  The injuries to the student were serious and horrific and included 4 severed toes, severe leg wounds and abdominal lacerations.   The victim, 3 years later still under goes extensive surgery for treatment of injuries.

The instruction manual for the rotary hoe clearly stated that the rotary hoe must be connected to the tractor before the cardan shaft was connected.

The link arms of the Ford tractor had been welded before The Teacher was employed in 1985.  When commenced his employment in 1985 he suggested to the then farm supervisor that the link arms needed to be replaced.  The Farm Supervisor told him that there wasn't enough funding to repair the link arms at that stage.

The Accused plead guilty to both charges.

 




Outcome Summary

Plead guilty

Global fine of $50,000

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Geraldton
Costs $6702 (Global)
Notes

Please note that the charges have a global fine. While a penalty is imposed on each charge it is for the global fine and not a separate amount for each charge.

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