Employer fined $65k for worker’s heat stress death
The employer of a backpacker who died from heat stress just four days starting a job in the Burdekin has been fined more than $65,000.
The court heard how the backpacker, Olivier Max Caramin, 27, employed under Pumpkin Pickers, had shown obvious signs of heat related stress before he collapsed and subsequently died of heat related illness.
Bradford Clark Rosten, trading as Pumpkin Pickers, pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court recently to breaching Queensland's Work Health and Safety Act 2011, failing to comply with his health and safety obligations.
Rosten employed about 200 people each year, mainly backpackers, to work on farms in the Burdekin. The backpackers were to be trained by the Rosten and the supervisors and experienced pickers he had employed.
The court heard that in late October 2017, Rosten employed Mr Caramin, who was not inducted in the operation's work system, although he was shown how to pick produce.
An investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland revealed the Rosten's system for instructing workers, particularly new ones, was inadequate in that very limited information was provided to them on heat related illness, how to self-manage and determine their work capacity.
The investigation also revealed the Rosten did not consider whether there was a need to provide or organise shelter at the client farms or to organise and plan how the picking work could be done outside the hottest part of the day.
There was only one line in the induction document about workers feeling heat affected, but an entire paragraph on the 'no music at work' policy.
Magistrate Ross Mack found Rosten had become complacent and the information provided to workers, including the team members, was insufficient to identify heat related illness.
He noted the Caramin had displayed obvious signs on the day of his collapse.
Mr Mack accepted the defendant was remorseful and had implemented post-incident, measures that, if followed, would mean a future offence would be unlikely.
He also accepted the Rosten was of good character, had no previous convictions for a like offence in his 23 years of operation.
Rosten was fined $65,000, plus court costs of almost $1600. No conviction was recorded.
Originally published as Employer fined $65k for worker's heat stress death