A pineapple farm.
A pineapple farm. Warren Lynam

CQ farmer fined $20k after post cyclone workplace accident

A CENTRAL Queensland farmer has received praise for his support of a worker injured in an accident repairing a shed roof damaged by Cyclone Marcia.

Colin Martin Stevens, a co-owner of Lake Mary Pines, pleaded guilty in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court for failing to comply with a health and safety duty.

The court heard Stevens and his employee, James Skuthorp, were carrying out Cyclone Marcia repairs to a shed on the Bungundarra property on June 7, 2016, when Skuthorp fell 3.2metres from a "rudimentary" heights bucket made from a pineapple bin being placed on top of forklift forks.

They were attaching 34 purlins, each weighing 30kg and six metres in length, to the shed in preparation of re-sheeting the roof.

The court heard the purlins got tangled and Mr Skuthorp attempted to untangle them but they ended up knocking the pineapple bin, causing Mr Skuthorp to fall.

Mr Skuthorp landed the concrete floor of the shed with the pineapple bin landing on top of him and a number of purlins, weighing 30kg each, landed on top of the bin.

He sustained serious injuries to both his arms and his face and has spent seven weeks in hospital for four operations so far with more operations needed in the future.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) prosecutor Lisa McConnell said this was unusual work being carried out for this workplace.

She pointed to facts in Stevens' favour, including that he had running the farm since 1980, there had been no workplace issues before this accident and Stevens went to great lengths to support his injured worker afterwards.

The court heard Stevens not only topped up Mr Skuthorp workplace payments - which is 75 per cent of his full-time pay - but Stevens also paid for Mr Skuthorp's wife to travel to Brisbane while her husband received medical treatment, got the couple a car so they could travel to appointments and paid the registration on the car.

Defence lawyer Charles Massy said Mr Skuthorp last month was given the go ahead from doctors to return to work to light duties and Stevens had offered to take Mr Skuthorp back in another role on the pineapple farm.

He said Stevens had worked with WHSQ and Ergon Energy since the accident to identify risks and put in place procedures to protect the other workers on the farm - up to seven employed at one time.

Magistrate Jeff Clarke commended Stevens for his attitude and response to the accident.

"This demonstrates to me that you would not be careless about workplace safety," he said.

Mr Clarke also commended Stevens for entering a plea of guilty in his first court appearance, stating that in his experience this was an unusual feature in such cases.

He ordered Stevens pay a $20,000 fine and to a $15,000 good behaviour bond, plus $750 for professional costs and $96.15 for the summons. No conviction was recorded.

Ms McConnell said another unusual feature of the case was that Stevens was charged as individual as opposed to a company being charged.

She said companies are penalised five times more than individuals and the maximum penalty for individuals for this charge was $300,000.

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