Otago Daily Times

Ministry fined after contractor­s hurt on farm



THE Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was fined $30,000 in the Invercargi­ll District Court yesterday — the first time the government agency has been prosecuted in relation to the health and safety of its contractor­s.

The fine was as a result of contractor­s suffering chemical burns while carrying out disinfecti­ng during a suspected Mycoplasma bovis outbreak on a Southland farm.

The charges related to an incident on May 17, 2018, when contractor­s were taken to hospital after suffering minor or superficia­l burns to their arms, faces or hands as a result of contact with a chemical product while cleaning Southern Centre Dairies, at Limehills.

At the time, MPI suspected the farm was infected with M. bovis.

MPI previously plead guilty to two charges of exposing individual­s to risk or harm or illness following a prosecutio­n from WorkSafe.

Cooffender­s in the case AsureQuali­ty Limited and OneStaff (Queenstown/Invercargi­ll) Limited were sentenced last year where AsureQuali­ty was fined $66,000 plus court costs of $2392.93, while OneStaff was ordered to pay $38,500 and the same amount of court costs. Both were also ordered to pay $1666.66 each in reparation.

At the hearing yesterday, WorkSafe prosecutor Katie Hogan said MPI engaged AsureQuali­ty to deliver cleaning and disinfecti­on as part of the response to M. bovis.

MPI was the government agency which had responsibi­lity for the response, and it had breached the primary duty to ensure the healthy and safety of its contractor­s, she said.

MPI representa­tives were in Invercargi­ll at the time and were holding daily briefs, so the incident could have been avoided.

Ms Hogan submitted the culpabilit­y of MPI was lower than AsureQuali­ty but was greater than One Staff — as the second company did not have access to the farm where the cleaning process was taking place.

Counsel Chris White said MPI was disappoint­ed to be in court as it took the health and safety of its workers ‘‘very seriously’’ and considered itself a leader in the matter.

It was the first time MPI had been prosecuted on health and safety charges and it had identified and implemente­d a number of changes following the incident, he said

Mr White submitted MPI had a lower culpabilit­y than the other parties as it did not have a ‘‘handson’’ role, controllin­g the daytoday operations.

However, he acknowledg­ed MPI could have done more to ensure AsureQuali­ty Limited was following its safety plan.

‘‘If the safety plan had been followed, we would not be here.’’

Judge Russell Walker agreed the culpabilit­y of MPI was lower than the other cooffender­s and acknowledg­ed the ‘‘previous good character’’ of the ministry.

He ordered MPI to pay $30,000 plus prosecutio­n costs of $3800 and $1666.66 in reparation towards the five workers — a third of the total $5000 reparation payment.

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