Machinery should be used for shifting heavy items – not staff. That is the message from WorkSafe after a worker on an Otago dairy farm was left with a spinal injury.

Dairy farming company, Otago Rural Management Limited was fined $270,937 at the Queenstown District Court today after a worker was injured by a falling gate in June 2017.

The injured worker was assisting a colleague to move the gate when it came off its roller track and struck both men as it fell, resulting in a concussion and spinal injury to the assisting worker. The other worker suffered minor injuries.

The gate had come off its track a number of times before – yet the business did not identify it as a risk, or ensure it was remedied appropriately. Either to prevent it occurring again or to ensure workers were not put at risk while handling the gate.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector Steve Kelly said that had the worker not been coincidentally wearing a quad bike helmet at the time, his injuries could have been far more serious or even fatal.

“Our investigation found that the roller mechanism of the gate frequently came off the fence line. Despite the company’s risk register stating machinery should be used to lift heavy objects wherever possible, we found that the gate and roller were often lifted manually.

“Otago Rural Management had failed to carry out regular audits to ensure that any problems with plant were fixed. They also had no clear policies in place or effective training to prevent workers from attempting to lift heavy machinery themselves”.

Otago Rural Management, which manages five dairy farms in Ranfurly, was also ordered to pay the victim $30,000 in reparation for emotional harm and $16,072 for consequential loss.


  • A fine of $270,937 was imposed.
  • Reparation of $46,072 (includes $16,072 for consequential loss) was ordered.
  • Otago Rural Management Limited was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
    • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while at work in the business or undertaking, did fail to comply with that duty and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury arising from working with heavy plant.
  • S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

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