Labour Department decides not to charge

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 08/10/2012

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A damning investigation report into the death of a Taihape farmhand crushed by a tractor recommended his employer be prosecuted for failing to ensure his safety.

But the Labour Department decided not to lay charges.

Henry Manukau Whale, 43, died on March 8 last year after the tractor he was driving on the Mangaohane Station rolled.

The tractor would normally only be driven on flat land, but on the day in question, Mr Whale had been asked to help with pulling another tractor that was stuck.

On his way there Mr Whale couldn't negotiate a corner and veered up a steep track, where the tractor he was driving rolled. He died at the scene.

A Labour Department report into the crash, obtained by the Manawatu Standard under the Official Information Act, was critical of Mangaohane Station and recommended the company be prosecuted for failing to ensure the safety of workers and the maintenance of equipment.

Health and safety inspector Margaret Utumapu found the tractor Mr Whale was driving was in poor condition. It had faulty brakes and unsecured weights at the front.

Engineering investigator Dr Tim Stevenson said there was uneven braking on the tractor's rear wheels that would have affected its stability.

"Dr Stevenson's report states that the front counterweights becoming detached in the accident increased the weight pressing on Mr Whale and contributed to the severity of his injuries," the department's report says.

"He also states that it appears the tractor was being operated in an unsafe condition, which may have contributed to both the occurrence and severity of the accident."

Additionally, the tractor had no seatbelt. If one were provided, Mr Whale might not have been trapped under the roll-over bars.

Because a fellow employee didn't have radio communication, there was a delay in calling for help.

Despite the report's recommendations, the department's Palmerston North area service manager David Hulston said no charges were laid.

"We had an interaction with [the farm company] and they are now aware of what their responsibilities are and what they are required to do under [legislation]."

He said charges were likely if there were further incidents on the farm.

After a coroner's inquest into Mr Whale's death, his mother Dianne said she was not upset with the farm company.

"It's a waste of time being angry. It was an accident, so no-one can be blamed for that."

None of the farm company's directors, Adrian Bull, Alison McLean, or Hamish Speedy, could be reached for comment.

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- Manawatu Standard

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