Rasta Kemp, a 24-year-old father-of-one, died in a horrific workplace incident in Victoria in 2018 when he became caught in a conveyor belt at at a timber mill. His employer, D&R Henderson, was just fined a grand total of $350,000 for his wrongful death. That’s the value of a life these days, folks.
Kemp was killed while unloading timber from a Benalla timber mill. On Thursday, a Melbourne court heard that while he was working, his clothes became caught on a pin protruding from a conveyor belt mechanism and he was dragged by the machine into the plant and impaled on a stillage — a type of metal cage used for storage.
D&R Henderson pleaded guilty to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety act of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace on Thursday.
An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria into the gruesome incident found D&H Henderson could have prevented Kemp’s death with safer working conditions — specifically by training workers on how to avoid being caught in it, or even having the conveyor belt placed out of reach in the first place.
“Investigators found it would have been reasonably practicable for the company to instruct employees about the risk of becoming entangled on the rotating shaft, where to position themselves to avoid this, and to contact a supervisor to arrange repairs if the belts came off the conveyors,” WorkSafe said, per ABC News.
WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was “tragic” that a “worker has lost his life in an incident which could have been avoided had proper safety measures been in place”.
What was the outcome of such a horrific case, you wonder?
A family member told Daily Mail Australia that the mill “should have been closed down permanently” but nope.
D&H Henderson was fined $275,000 for failing to maintain systems of work that were safe, and another $75,000 for failing to provide adequate safety information, instructions and training to keep workers safe. So, a total of $350,000.
That’s not a lot of money when you consider that someone’s life was lost and family devastated. I mean, a similar job of a D&R Henderson sawmill operator in Benalla is going for around $60,000 right now. $350,000 is a bit over five years of a worker’s salary, and only 0.4% of the $74 million the company reportedly made in revenue in 2023.
Recruitment Select Pty Ltd was also previously fined $50,000 over the death of Rasta Kemp, since it provided him as a worker to D&R Henderson. Again, that’s less than the salaries being advertised for machine operators at the timber company. Fkn tragic.
This case is one of many in recent months of deaths on the job due to unsafe working conditions.
Just this week, a 17-year-old from Brisbane was killed after falling several metres while working at a construction site, in an incident that the CFMEU claimed was because of unsafe working conditions.
At this point we have to ask what can be done to prevent this in the future, because fining is not going to undo the heartbreak this Kemp’s family will have to endure with his loss.