Peter Gibbs at Biggenden Meatworks.
Peter Gibbs at Biggenden Meatworks. Contributed

North Burnett's biggest employer fined $200k after death

MEATS R Us Pty Ltd has been fined $200,000 after it failed to ensure the health and safety of a worker and exposed him to the risk of death. 

Trading as the Biggenden Meatworks, Meats R Us was fined for the death of a worker who suffered fatal injuries in 2017 when he was struck by a ramp while unloading a triple-deck truck laden with pigs. 

Colin Chivers, who initially suffered critical injuries but died nine days later, had only been with the abattoir a month when the incident occurred.

The 39-year-old labourer had no previous experience unloading livestock, no formal qualifications nor training in the trade. 

The court heard that during a livestock delivery a truck driver called for help and Mr Chivers came to the aid of the man to help stop the pigs jumping off the newly raised ramp near the holding yard, when it started moving in a see-sawing motion.

The pigs continued moving, adding extra weight to the ramp when the cross bar suddenly dropped trapping Mr Chivers between the ramp and the ground. 

Company director Peter Gibbs pleaded guilty in the Maryborough Magistrates Court and was fined $15,000 for failing to ensure Meats R Us Pty Ltd complied with its duties. 

Magistrate Terry Duroux expressed to the court that Mr Gibbs, one of four directors of the family-owned company, was solely responsible for the daily operational management, including all 52 workers.  

Mr Duroux noted Meat R Us is the largest employer in North Burnett and the matter was tragic and extremely serious.

He called for a significant penalty despite the company never being previously prosecuted for a work health and safety incident before. 

Mr Duroux said the company provided financial assistance in good faith so that Mr Chivers' family could travel to Brisbane immediately after the incident, but even after court proceedings were finalised, it was highly unlikely they would ever have closure on his death. 

The court heard that no risk assessment, engineering or independent certification had been undertaken or was in place. There was no understanding of the impacts of the weight that the worker would be unloading onto the modified ramp. 

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland engineering reports identified numerous issues with the modified ramp. In particular, it was identified that it would take less than two large backfatter pigs on the ramp to cause instability.

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