Meat company fined over crushed worker

Patrick Smith was an experienced stockman who believed in silver linings.

After his death in a workplace accident four years ago, his widow Kellie lives by his beliefs.

Her husband was killed in December 2017 while moving cattle for Midfield Meats, his employer of 27 years.

He was drafting and weighing the company’s cattle on a property at Dunkeld, in western Victoria, before he was found dead in an enclosed yard.

“Pat used to say something good comes out of a bad situation so let’s honour these words by aspiring to educate and promote farm safety to ensure that no one ever has to face these challenges again,” she said.

On Tuesday Midfield Meats was fined $400,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace.

Mr Smith was working alone when it’s suspected he was attacked by a highly agitated stag – an improperly castrated bull.

Craig Oliver – who owned the property where Midfield had agitated steers for 16 years – had noticed the stag was the dominant animal in a herd of 50 he moved to one of the yards.

Both he and Mr Smith witnessed its behaviour in the past and knew to be cautious of it.

It was he who found Mr Smith injured later in the morning and tried to save him until emergency services arrived.

Midfield Meats was found guilty at trial of failing to ensure Mr Smith’s workplace was safe.

Judge Michael O’Connell said the company had taken the view that hiring the most experienced cattle handlers was the most effective way of eliminating or reducing risk to the health and safety of employees working in closed yards off site.

He said Mr Smith was universally regarded as an experienced and skilled stockman, well qualified to perform the task he did that day.

“In my view, it was all well and good for Midfield to ensure that field officers were well qualified and good at their jobs, as the evidence demonstrated that they were, but that was not enough,” he said.

“Midfield was required to implement an appropriate system of work which addressed the risk to employees when working with cattle in enclose yards, and it failed to do so.”

The fine comes a year after Ms Smith and the couple’s three children filed a lawsuit in Victoria’s Supreme Court alleging his Warrnambool-based employer failed to create a safe workplace.

They say the company knew the stag that killed Mr Smith was aggressive. The more than 600 kilogram animal was still trying to break through a fence when help arrived and was destroyed.

They’ve claimed Midfield Meats failed to make sure the stag was moved from the mob, to ensure the yards Mr Smith was working in were suitable for that mob and that he was left without an adequate escape route.

The family is seeking damages for psychological injury, loss and damage.

Source: Australian Associated Press

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