Federated Farmers says the $15,000 penalty imposed on a quad bike rider for not wearing a helmet shows WorkSafe New Zealand is prepared to use its regulatory muscle.
Marlborough herd manager Rangi Holmes was sentenced at the Nelson District Court on two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure his own safety and that of his passenger.
WorkSafe NZ took the prosecution after inspectors repeatedly saw Holmes riding a quad bike in the Rai Valley while carrying children, without a helmet in sight.
The the law was the law, Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said. "If you flout it, you risk significant penalties as this case shows.
"Yet the size of the penalty has come as a shock, given the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $150 and drivers are responsible for those under 15 years of age.
"Worksafe NZ needs to fully explain why the penalty in this case is 100 times greater than that for seatbelts."
According to WorkSafe NZ's general manager of Health and Safety Operations, Ona de Rooy, Holmes put his own, and others' lives, needlessly at risk. "Quad bikes are inherently dangerous. On average five people are killed in quad-bike accidents and another 850 are injured. They are not toys and need to be ridden with care."
Wills feared the prosecution would undo the positive work that had been carried out by WorkSafe with the farming community.
"The risk with this penalty is the climate of fear and suspicion it creates instead of the positive relationship and progress that seemed to be developing," Wills said.
"With Worksafe NZ's farm inspections, where a breach has been found, a warning letter or infringement notice is either issued or posted out, which is the wake-up call for those who have not heeded our advice.
"Not wearing a helmet on a quad bike is like not wearing a respirator when spraying weeds."
- Waikato Times