Farmer fined $25,000 over death
A CHILDERS farmer was fined $25,000 for failing to provide water, shade and sun protection to workers on the day a German woman died in the farm’s tomato field.
Backpacker Jessica Pera, 24, died on her second day of working as a fruit picker for Barbera Farms in Childers and the company yesterday faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching Workplace Health and Safety rules that day, December 11, 2009.
The facts of the case were not read out in court, but prosecutor Trajce Cvetkovski told the court farm managers had failed to implement, monitor and review safe practices for workers in hot, outdoor conditions where they were at risk of heat stress.
“A potentially safe environment was made unsafe due to a lack of supervision,” he said.
He said farm bosses had identified and assessed the hazard of heat stress but had failed to make sure its workplace health and safety practices and controls were adhered to.
Barrister Sandy Horneman-Wren, SC, said his client operated a highly labour-intensive and casual workforce.
“They need to be more vigilant, that’s represented in their plea here today,” he said.
Magistrate Paul Kluck ordered no conviction be recorded, taking into account it was Barbera Farms’ first offence and its co-operation with the investigation.
“The hazard, the risk of death or injury to the workers ... there was a failure to ensure the implementation and adherence to the control measures,” he said.
“The defendant has since comprehensively reviewed its safety management system.”
The cause of Ms Pera’s untimely death has not been released to the public and even her parents were forced to wait several months for any news.
Guy Barbera, the director of Barbera Farms which has gone into receivership, yesterday confirmed they had failed to “adequately manage the hazard of several workers working in heat”.
“Barbera Farms regrets its failure in this regard and has since made several improvements to its safety management systems,” Mr Barbera said.
‘The potential for harm was evident.’