Poultry contractor fined $1.13 million after death of employee

24 October 2017

CK Crouch Pty Ltd (CK) was contracted by poultry producer Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd for work at various chicken farms, including one in Lethbridge, Victoria.

The deceased was employed by CK to catch and load live chickens, with shifts occurring during the night to minimise stress to the chickens. Workers employed as chicken catchers would herd chickens to one side of the shed and load them into cages which were then lifted by a forklift onto a truck for transportation.

On 30 November 2015, a 41-year-old man was struck by a forklift as it transported a full cage of chickens across the shed. The man, who died at the scene, suffered serious chest, spine and pelvic injuries.

At the time of the incident, CK had two written work procedures regarding this process, however employees were not aware of these procedures, nor had they been provided with any relevant information, instruction or training.

Furthermore CK employees were not provided with, nor required to wear, any reflective clothing during the chicken catching and loading process.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams stated that operating forklifts in such a dimly lit environment was “a recipe for disaster” and that the death could have been prevented had the company followed proper safety procedures.

On 11 September 2017, CK was criminally convicted on three charges as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, with two charges of failing to provide or maintain safe systems or work and one of failing to provide information, instruction and training to employees. A fine of $379,175 was imposed on each charge; a total effective sentence of $1,137,525 with a further $3,200 in costs.

The maximum fine for corporations as set out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 is $1,365,030.

Recommendations for Employers

  • Identify and mitigate visibility problems: either by increasing artificial lighting or through the provision of reflection clothing
  • Ensure employees receive adequate and up-to-date training and instruction on the required safety procedures and policies
  • Implement requisite communication protocols between ground staff and machinery operators
  • Consider the erecting of physical barriers between machinery areas of operation and workers