NT: charges laid over fatal cattle station helicopter crash

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of members. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Date: 
Thursday, 17 December, 2020 - 11:15
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Northern Territory

NT WorkSafe has charged two company directors with Queensland-based Hewitt Cattle Australia Pty Ltd’s (Hewitt Cattle Australia) over a helicopter crash in Central Australia, which killed one worker and seriously injured another.

They each face a maximum penalty of $600,000 if found guilty.

The crash at Ambalindum Station in 2018 claimed the life of the 47-year-old pilot and seriously injured the 24-year-old passenger, who was employed as the station’s Head Stockman.

The investigation found alcohol in the helicopter at the crash scene and alcohol in the pilot’s room at Ambalindum Station.

The toxicology report showed the presence of alcohol at the time of the pilot’s death. 

Also contributing to the fatal crash was the load weight and weight distribution of the helicopter.

Each director is charged with two principal charges for breaches of s32 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 and two alternative charges for breaches of s33 of the WHS Act.

The charges relate to the alleged failures to comply with due diligence duties under s27 of the WHS Act (Duty of officers).

NT WorkSafe Senior Director Bill Esteves says aerial mustering has several hazards, such as very low-level flying, high workload, negative effects from weather, obstacles such as power lines, trees, and terrain, pilot distraction, and small power margins.

“This coupled with the additional hazards of intoxication, overloading and poor weight distribution increases the risk of a crash to extreme levels,” Esteves said.

“Company directors must demonstrate a high standard of due diligence in workplace safety.

“They must ensure that the resources and systems of their businesses minimise risk to health and safety.

“We allege the company directors failed to comply with their duty to verify the company had and used appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise the risk.”