Motorcyclist Dodges Death At Cattle Crossing

A motorcyclist is lucky to be alive after getting caught in bungy ropes strung across a public road on the West Coast, in what a Judge has called “an extremely obvious hazard”.

The incident occurred in the Maruia Valley in March 2021, where sharemilkers had put the ropes across the 100kph road to relocate 800 cows.

A lack of signage meant the motorcyclist’s first warning of what was going on was when he saw the ropes. At that stage it was too late to be able to stop safely. When he struck the ropes it pulled tight, and he came off his bike, slid along the road and hit a fence post.

The victim was hospitalised with fractures to his right rib and a laceration of his right kidney.

“The injuries were incredibly serious and the rider is lucky to be alive. The businesses involved did not notify WorkSafe of the incident, and left the victim himself to do so weeks later,” says WorkSafe’s national investigations manager, Casey Broad.

The sharemilkers, Te Koru Wai Limited, were charged by WorkSafe for health and safety failures. So too was the farm owner, Dairy Holdings Limited. Both have now been sentenced.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the bungy ropes had been across the road for about three hours, and only two workers were present on the farm.

In sentencing, Judge Jane Farish concluded that “this was an extremely obvious hazard with a simple method of avoiding it” and that “the blocking of a public road should ring significant alarm bells”.

“In the direction the rider was travelling, there was no warning sign in place for the stock crossing. NZTA guidance requires farmers to install a temporary warning sign at an adequate distance ahead of the crossing, when more than 50 animals are being moved,” says Casey Broad.

“Stock crossings are commonplace in rural New Zealand, and the risks to motorists are well known. Having signage up and farm workers present while cattle are crossing is the safest way to go.”

“Working farms, like any other business, are responsible for ensuring work is safe. Our role is to influence businesses to meet these responsibilities and we hold them to account if they don’t,” says Casey Broad.

Read the code of practice for stock crossings | nzta.govt.nz [PDF, 576KB](external link)

Background

  • Te Koru Wai Limited was sentenced at the Christchurch District Court
  • A fine of $220,000 was imposed, and reparation of $13,200 ordered
  • Te Koru Wai was charged under sections 36(2), 36(3)(c), 48(1) and 48(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons, namely road users, was not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking, namely the operation of the stock crossing on Maruia Saddle Road at Frog Flat Farm, Maruia Valley, West Coast New Zealand (Frog Flat Farm), did fail to comply with that duty in that road users were exposed to a risk of colliding into a rope placed across the road, and that failure exposed individuals to a risk of death or serious injury.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.
  • Dairy Holdings Limited was sentenced at the Christchurch District Court.
  • A fine of $211,700 was imposed, and reparation of $8,800 ordered
  • Dairy Holdings was charged under sections 36(2), 48(1) and 48(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons, namely road users, was not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking, namely the operation of the stock crossing on Maruia Saddle Road at Frog Flat Farm, Maruia Valley, West Coast New Zealand (Frog Flat Farm), did fail to comply with that duty in that road users were exposed to a risk of colliding into a bungee placed across the road, and that failure exposed individuals to a risk of death or serious injury.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.

/Public Release. View in full here.