After workplace tragedy, sugar firm loses legal battle – Australia News


A SUGAR milling company has lost a dispute over prosecution after an employee was fatally crushed in a workplace tragedy.

Proserpine man John Erikson, 46, was killed in November 2012.

Wilmar operated the sugar mill where he died.

The company wanted an “enforceable undertaking” instead of being criminally prosecuted for Mr Erikson’s death.

Wilmar operated eight mills and had a good health and safety record, a new Queensland Supreme Court judgment found.

And since the accident, Wilmar had invested in safety upgrades.

Justice James Douglas said Wilmar helped Mr Erikson’s family with funeral arrangements and donated equipment to a hospital to treat crush injuries.

Mr Erikson walked into the path of an empty cane bin at the Prosperpine mill.

He was “walking down a corridor next to the train track along which empty cane bins travelled after they had been tipped up and emptied,” Justice Douglas wrote.

A yellow line marked the corridor off from the track area.

“Mr Erikson walked across that yellow line in front of an empty cane bin travelling down the ramp … was struck in the back and caught between the bin and the fixed braking system,” the judge said.

It was not known why he walked across.

“It was probably momentary inadvertence.”

No previous incidents might have alerted Wilmar to the likely risk of such an event, the judge added.

Mr Erikson was taken to Mackay Base Hospital for treatment but died soon after.

The mill was shut for 24 hours out of respect.

Singapore-based Wilmar bought the mill less than a year before the tragedy.

It spent about $5 million improving operations, Justice Douglas said.

Wilmar “went to considerable efforts to propose an enforceable undertaking instead…

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