NT: enforceable undertaking to improve safety in agricultural aerial operations

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 26 October, 2022 - 12:00
Incidents & prosecutions
Northern Territory

NT WorkSafe has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Michael Hewitt of Hewitt Cattle Australia over a 2018 helicopter accident in Central Australia, which resulted in the fatality of one worker and serious injuries to another.

NT WorkSafe filed complaints alleging that Mr Hewitt failed to comply with the obligations of an officer under Section 27 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (NT) (the Act), contrary to Section 33 of the Act.

On the basis of the below enforceable undertaking, the complaint has been withdrawn. NT WorkSafe has also withdrawn all charges against Ben Hewitt arising from the incident and other charges that were commenced against Michael Hewitt.

The enforceable undertaking is given without any admission of fault and includes terms that require a spend of $55,000 to undertake a range of activities to improve safety systems within Hewitt Cattle Australia and deliver health and safety initiatives to the agricultural industry and wider community.

The proposed activities included in the enforceable undertaking are:

  • Organising and participating in a training program via an accredited WHS registered training organisation with the other company managers to increase knowledge on hazards and risk assessments, and safety management systems;
  • Presenting at a Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association event (or equivalent forum) to broaden industry knowledge on WHS compliance and development of appropriate WHS systems for pastoral properties conducting aerial operations; and
  • Funding a feasibility study to assess the viability of a dedicated aviation emergency response aircraft or organisation based out of Alice Springs to service remote communities around the area.

NT WorkSafe executive director Peggy Cheong said that the enforceable undertaking is appropriate for the charges laid, noting that Hewitt Cattle Australia has spent more than $1 million to improve safety on their properties, particularly in actions relating to their aerial operations.

“The enforceable undertaking will further assist officers in understanding their duty under the Act with respect to ensuring that safe systems of work are implemented in the workplace,” she said.

“It is a timely reminder and message for officers to be aware of their obligations to not only have safe work systems but to ensure that such systems are actioned and implemented as part of their duty under the Act.”