Seatbelts should be mandatory on all tractors used on farms, coroner Allan Hall has said in his findings on the death of a farm worker near Tolaga Bay last year.
Grant Murray Yates, 22, died after being thrown and crushed by the tractor he was driving when it rolled while he was working at Mangaheia Station on June 6 last year.
“If a seatbelt had been fitted and used, it is likely Grant would have survived,” Hall said.
Under health and safety and employment regulations, a self-propelled mechanical plant is to be fitted with a roll over-proof structure and seatbelt, but any tractor used in agricultural work is exempt.
“Over a number of years as a coroner, I have dealt with a number of tractor accidents and I am concerned there is no requirement to have a seatbelt in a tractor used for agricultural work,” Hall said.
He agreed with recommendations by Department of Labour health and safety inspector Rod Gordon that a seatbelt should be provided for use on a tractor.
Also, farmers should implement an induction for employees into farm hazards and their controls as part of an overall health and safety plan, then implement formal training and supervision structure on the farm.
The Public Trust Office, as trustee of the station, had acknowledged it had breached the Health and Safety Act, which says an employer must take practical steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work.
It had pleaded guilty to a case brought against it by the Department of Labour and had been sentenced to pay reparations to the family.
Yates had been employed by Mangaheia Station for about six months before his death.
On the day of the accident, Yates and four other employees loaded battens, posts and railings on to a tractor-trailer and headed to the area they were fencing.
When one employee started laying the battens by hand, Yates suggested using the tractor.
Hall said he thought Yates got a surprise when the tractor started because he said, “Shit, I have not been on a steep hill like this before”.
He started down the slope then braked, skidding to a stop on an 18 degree slope gradient.
He went forward another seven metres before going into a constant skid for about 27 metres. He then came to a brow where there was a steeper slope, about 35 percent gradient, where the trailer jack-knifed.
According to evidence from Gordon, at this point the tractor rolled at least once, coming to rest a further 27 metres down the slope.
Yates was found near the front wheels of the tractor.
The trailer came away from the tractor after the connecting bar snapped off under significant pressure. It was estimated the weight of the trailer and its load was close to a tonne.
The autopsy report indicated the cause of death was a crushing injury to the chest and associated ruptured lower abdominal wall. He had thoracic, spinal and arm fractures.
Hall said analysis of his blood showed three micrograms of THC in his blood and it was likely he was affected by cannabis.
Nevertheless, it seemed the basic cause of the accident was that the tractor was taken downhill on a steep slope which was unsafe.
Hall said he agreed with Gordon there had been insufficient training for Yates.