TRIAL UNDERWAY: A trial into the death of a man at the Proserpine sugar mill in 2012 started this week.
TRIAL UNDERWAY: A trial into the death of a man at the Proserpine sugar mill in 2012 started this week. Peter Carruthers

Trial underway

A TRIAL into the death of a man at the Proserpine sugar mill in 2012 started this week.

Wilmar Sugar Pty Ltd pleaded not guilty in Proserpine Magistrates Court on Wednesday to a charge of failing to comply with health and safety duty.

John Erikson died after he was hit by a sugar can bin inside the mill on November 11, 2012.

At the time of Mr Erikson's death, the mill was operated by Sucrogen Australia Pty Ltd, which later changed its name to Wilmar Sugar Pty Ltd.

Division of Work Health and Safety Queensland prosecutor Cate Hartigan told the court Mr Erikson had walked out of the smoko room, located outside the tippler, the machine that empties the bins, and down a corridor next to the cane train track.

The court heard, at first Mr Erikson was correctly walking outside a yellow safety line which showed where the bins travelled, but he crossed the yellow line and stepped almost immediately into the path of a cane bin coming along the track behind him.

"He was forced by the bin into the braking system and suffered fatal injuries,” Ms Hartigan said.

She alleged Wilmar Sugar ought to have known the risks of entrapment and crushing injuries.

Ms Hartigan also alleged Wilmar Sugar did not ensure the health and safety of Mr Erikson while he was at work.

The trial will hear from eight witnesses, including people who saw the incident, other mill staff and Workplace Health and Safety inspectors who investigated it.

Wednesday saw evidence from Work Health and Safety Queensland inspector Gavin Wesche who investigated Mr Erikson's death, first visiting the mill the day after he died.

Mr Wesche explained how the empty bins would be pushed out of the tippler and down a gravity fed ramp towards the braking system, from where they would go onto the coupling shed.

He also identified objects in a number of photos taken of the scene after the incident.

Among the day's evidence was CCTV footage from inside the mill of the moments before, and as, the bin hit Mr Erikson.

It showed Mr Erikson walking beside the yellow line, around an air lance hose and past a narrow area, before he crossed the yellow line and was hit from behind by the bin.

Defence Queens Counsel Richard Perry questioned Mr Wesche about his report into the incident.

Mr Perry spoke of how the area where Mr Erikson was hit was an authorised only area, where only people trained to work in that area were allowed to be.

He told how the company had provided instruction and training to staff who worked in that area.

"Such information would allow him to traverse safely on that day,” he said.

Mr Perry also quoted Mr Wesche's report which had said the company had "provided a clean, clear, demarcation line”.

"The purpose of the yellow line was so that people may not ever be hit by a bin because the bins stayed in the lines,” Mr Perry said.

He also questioned Mr Wesche about how the CCTV footage showed Mr Erikson had passed a narrow section - or pinch point - of the corridor, saying after that spot, the area opened up again and Mr Erikson could have walked safely around to the right of the braking system.

"Instead of stepping into the open area, he stepped left to go across the line,” he said.

The trial is continuing, with three days set aside by the court for it to be held.


Dinghy found at Abell Point Marina

Dinghy found at Abell Point Marina

Dinghy found at Abell Point Marina

Airport could close if water covers roads

Airport could close if water covers roads

Whitsunday Coast Airport could close if water covers roads.

Whitsunday music teacher to perform at world premiere

Whitsunday music teacher to perform at world premiere

Whitsunday music teacher to perform at world premiere.

Local Partners