John Erikson died on the job.
John Erikson died on the job. Contributed

Failed appeal over sugar miller's death costs WHSQ thousands

THE Workplace Health and Safety ombudsman has been ordered to pay Wilmar Sugar more than $7000 in legal fees over failed legal action regarding the 2012 death of a Proserpine sugar mill worker.

Wilmar employee John Erikson was killed at Wilmar's Proserpine sugar mill in November 2012 when an empty cane train struck him from behind.

WHSQ initially alleged Wilmar had failed to comply with its duties to keep employees safe, but the charges were dismissed in Proserpine Magistrates Court.

WHSQ appealed that decision in the Brisbane District Court, but Judge Paul Smith ruled in Wilmar's favour.

"If he had complied with his training he would not have been hit," Judge Smith said.

"I am satisfied that the prosecution did not prove beyond reasonable doubt it was either reasonably practical (for Wilmar) to implement the control measures asserted in the complaint, or that the control measures asserted would in fact prevent workers from walking alongside moving cane bins as alleged."

On Wednesday, Judge Smith ordered WHSQ to pay Wilmar $7217.96 in legal fees within the next month.

The amount was a blow for WHSQ who argued they should not have to pay any costs as the legal action was "brought in good faith" following an investigation.

WHSQ argued the wider community expected "matters involving serious injury or death in the workplace are pursued to the full extent of the law".

Judge Smith agreed the public expected workplace deaths to be investigated and followed through in court, but as WHSQ lost in court and brought further action through the appeal they should have to pay Wilmar's costs.

"(WHSQ) was wholly unsuccessful and the respondent was put to the expense of responding to the appeal. It was not a straightforward appeal and involved the perusal of three days of transcripts and ... a bulky exhibit".

Judge Smith ordered WHSQ pay the full $7217.96 that Wilmar had asked for.

Since Mr Erikson's death Wilmar has spent about $5 million improving operations at the Proserpine Mill. -NewsRegional

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