Biggenden Meatworks company director Peter Gibbs.
Biggenden Meatworks company director Peter Gibbs. Contributed

Abattoir and its boss fined over worker's death

AN ABATTOIR in the Wide Bay region has been fined $200,000 in Maryborough Magistrates Court over the death of an employee in a tragic accident.   

Colin Chivers died from injuries suffered on-the-job at Biggenden Meatworks in 2017 when he was struck by a ramp while unloading a triple-deck truck laden with pigs.  

It has been found that Biggenden Meatworks, which is registered under Meats R Us Pty Ltd, had exposed the labourer to the risk of death.  

Mr Chivers had only been with the abattoir a month when the incident occurred and had no previous experience unloading livestock as well as no prior training.  

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.   

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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.  

Since then, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland identified numerous issues with the modified ramp, including that it would take less than two large backfatter pigs on the ramp to cause instability.   

At the time of the incident there had been no risk assessment, engineering or independent certification undertaken as well so no understanding of the impacts of weight on the modified ramp, the court heard.   

In addition to the $200,000 fine the company copped, company director Peter Gibbs pleaded guilty 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.   

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

Mr Duroux noted that the company provided financial assistance in good faith to Mr Chivers' family so they 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.