$22,000 fine for 'bunny bombing' injury

Friday, 15 June, 2007

A Tintinara farmer was fined $22,000 plus costs last week for a lack of safety procedures with explosives on his farm, which led to an employee losing his hand two years ago.

James Ashby pleaded guilty to breaching Section 19 of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to ensure the safety of an employee at work.

The court heard that in August 2006, a farmhand was instructed to plant and detonate gelignite in rabbit warrens as a means of pest control commonly called "bunny bombing'. The length of fuse he was advised to use was only 30 cm instead of the recommended 1 m.

The 53-year-old farm worker lost his right hand in an explosion and suffered serious eye and ear injuries.

SafeWork SA described the explosives procedures on the farm as "seriously flawed" and "a disaster waiting to happen".

"Explosives are dangerous, full stop. There can be no compromising on minimum safe standards," said SafeWork SA executive director, Michele Patterson.

The magistrate noted the farmer had failed to conduct a suitable risk assessment, had not provided the right length fuses, didn't use a safe method of pest control and didn't provide enough training or instruction to the employee.

"As we've seen in this case, there is a heavy price to be paid when compliance with those standards falls short," said Patterson.

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