NT News

Payout for burns victim

- JASON WALLS

A CATTLE mustering contractor, who forced a young ringer to continue working after he suffered serious burns that later required surgery while mocking and verbally abusing him, has been ordered to pay the teenager $20,000.

Arron Peter Kerr, 25, pleaded guilty in the Darwin Local Court to two counts of reckless conduct after the young man was injured by an exploding 44-gallon drum at Montejinni Station in 2019.

NT WorkSafe said the 18year-old ringer had been at the remote station 320km southwest of Katherine for less than a month when he was instructed to cut open the Avgas drum with an angle grinder.

Although the drum had been washed multiple times, it still exploded, causing burns to the man’s hands, arms and face and blisters that burst within 30 minutes of the explosion.

In a statement, WorkSafe said Kerr “decided the burns were not severe” and sent him from the camp back to Montejinni, instructin­g him “to mislead the homestead staff and say the burns were caused from lighting a gas barbecue”.

The station’s operations manager assessed the man’s injuries as first and second degree burns and asked if he wanted to go to hospital but was told by another worker that they “would manage”.

The two workers returned to the camp where the burns were treated with “unboiled bore water mixed with a veterinary antiseptic”.

“Over the next five days, the injured worker was required to work when he was able, despite his condition deteriorat­ing to include a fever, internal bleeding, suffering cramps and his burns becoming infected,” the statement reads.

“During this time, the injured worker was mocked and verbally abused by Mr Kerr.”

On the fifth day, Kerr again verbally abused the teenager and told him to “go home” after he was unable to manage a creek crossing on his horse due to the burns on his hands.

The young man asked for a lift to the nearest roadhouse, which was initially refused before he was dropped at Top Springs Hotel where he “asked bar patrons for help”. “A good Samaritan, seeing the condition the injured worker was in, drove him 291km to Katherine,” the statement reads. “The injured worker required specialist medical treatment and was transferre­d to Darwin where he required surgery.”

Kerr was convicted of two breaches of work health and safety laws, the first such conviction­s for reckless conduct in the Territory and given a two year good behaviour bond.

He was also ordered to pay the man $20,000, also a first for the Territory, on top of his government funded workers compensati­on entitlemen­ts.

NT WorkSafe WH & S regulator Bill Esteves said it was “difficult to comprehend how there could have been such disregard for a young worker who was seriously injured”. “It would be difficult for a person, in particular a parent, to read the details of this incident and not feel some emotion for what this young worker had experience­d,” he said.

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