$15,000 quad bike fine's fairness disputed
A $15,000 fine given to a Marlborough farm worker for not wearing a quad bike helmet was excessive, but sent a message to farmers that standards had to improve, Waikato Federated Farmers president Chris Lewis says.
Speaking at the Waikato Federated Farmers dairy industry group annual meeting, Lewis backed the principle of the fine, but believed it was disproportionate to the $150 fine an urban person received for not wearing a seatbelt.
"Yes, there should be a fine for not wearing a helmet, there's no debate on that, but 100 times what you would get from an urban person? Is that fair?
"Yes he had been warned four times, yes he deserved a fine ... but he didn't deserve a $15,000 fine.
"If farmers are getting hit with $15,000 fines then so should people in urban areas," he said.
Marlborough farmhand Rangi Holmes was sentenced at the Nelson District Court earlier this month 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.
Workplace New Zealand inspectors saw on five occasions Holmes riding a quad bike while carrying a child under 10 without a helmet on the farm where he works in the Rai Valley.
Lewis said all farmers, including himself have made "silly mistakes" in the past, but many now had staff to consider.
"They can't all think for themselves I have to think for them."
Lewis said he rode a quad bike without a helmet in the past, but now it was policy on his 1100 cow dairy farm that all of his staff wore a helmet when riding a quad bike, including himself.
"I have a blanket rule that everyone wears one."
Another farmer said it was not just helmets, it was who they carried on their bikes.
"There's two issues in that court case, and the majority of the fine from the judges perspective would have been for the kid," he said.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the fine was a clear message from Worksafe NZ that it has the regulatory muscle and was prepared to deploy it.
"Whatever you may think about a helmet the law is the law. If you flout it you risk significant penalties as this case shows.
The nature and size of what Worksafe NZ had imposed told farmers it had the necessary teeth at its disposal, Wills said.
"The question is whether those teeth have bitten too deep."