Sugar giant charged with industrial manslaughter

Charges have been laid against one of the country’s biggest sugar millers after a worker was electrocuted on the job in Far North Queensland two years ago.

Brett Quinn was killed while dogging for a crane that contacted, or came in close proximity to, overhead power lines while working on a cane rail system at Little Mulgrave, near Gordonvale, south of Cairns in 2019.

In a statement, Workplace Health and Safety Prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle said he had charged MSF Sugar Pty Ltd with industrial manslaughter under the Electrical Safety Act over the incident.

It’s the first time a company has faced such a charge since the act was introduced four years ago.

The maximum penalty carries a $10 million fine.

MSF has also been charged with breaching an electrical safety duty and exposing multiple workers to a risk of serious injury or death over the same incident — a charge that carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $1.5 million.

The small community of Gordonvale, where Mr Quinn lived, was left reeling after the incident.

He was a second-generation worker for MSF.

A fundraising page set up shortly after his death described him as a “hard worker with a fondness for a good joke”.

MSF Sugar declined to comment given the matter was before the courts.

Electrical Trades Union far northern organiser Robert Hill said the charge should send a message to all employers, particularly those in agriculture.

“Unfortunately, workers keep getting hurt and not returning home from work so we fully support the department’s prosecution and if people are found to be wanting, they deserve to be prosecuted through the full strength of the law,” Mr Hill said.

He said the agricultural industry saw more electrical incidents than any other sector in any given year.

“The agriculture sector is a huge concern to those in the electrical industry, given the number of incidences and we really need to keep that front of mind,” he said.

“We are hoping the industry changes and takes it seriously because too many workers are being hurt.”

The matter will be mentioned at the Cairns Magistrates Court next month.

No other charges are expected to be laid over the incident.

Source: ABC

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