A Case about Fatigue

Worksafe v Michael Vinning Contracting Ltd
At a hearing in the Huntly District Court on 6 April 2018 Michael Vinning Contracting an agricultural contracting firm was prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for failing to ensure the safety of workers when they were at work that failure was in exposing its workers to a risk of death or serious injury arising from fatigue.

The employee, a UK national aged 23, who was on a working holiday in New Zealand was driving home in the dark in the early hours when the tractor he was driving crashed causing his death. It was thought that he fell asleep at the wheel.
His time sheets recorded that he had worked 16.75 hours that day and in the fortnight leading up to the crash he had worked every day a total of 197.25 hours. The company pleaded guilty.

Both parties agreed it was reasonably practicable for the company to have:
1. Ensured that an effective management system was implemented
2. Identified assessed and monitored specific related hazards
3. Ensured guidelines for maximum hours and minimum duration breaks were developed and monitored
4. That the worker took regular breaks and ensured that workers were trained in understanding and managing fatigue.

The company indicated that it had taken steps to monitor employee fatigue and it detailed those.

The Court commented that:
1. The issue of fatigue was not well understood and that there have been few fatigue cases
2. The work hours were high but not unusual or excessive.

The Court made an order for $80,000 reparations plus $9361.00 payable to the family. In addition the Court held that the end fine having regard to various factors should be $325,000 however that as the financial capacity to pay the fine was not great so reduced the fine to $10,000 with prosecution legal costs of $2,656.50.

The full case can be downloaded from the NZLII data bases under District Court.

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James Findlay

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