Worker death ‘swept under the carpet, to keep it quiet’

by HCA16 May 2017
S. Kidman and Co has pleaded guilty to failing to comply with its health and safety duties after Matthew Arena died when a 353-kilogram pole fell from a bobcat and crushed him.

The company, which is majority-owned by Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, will face a maximum penalty of up to $1.5 million.

The barrister for S. Kidman and Co, Miles Crawley, said the incident was “freakish”.

He added that the pole had fallen in a such way that it resulted in the death of the 24-year-old that was not easily foreseeable.

Crawley said the company spent $50,000 on safety training and assessments and it had made “multimillion dollar” investments in its pastoral properties to enhance safety and efficiency.

The company admitted guilt to the charge because it allowed use of the bobcat that was not working properly. It also failed to ensure staff were carrying out work in the same manner that had been done before.

S. Kidman and Co previously defended the charge on a technicality, saying prosecutors filed the charge out of time. However, the NT Supreme Court ruled the case could go ahead early last year.

The charges were filed at the request of the family after a coronial investigation.

HC contacted S.Kidman and Co for comment and a spokesperson provided the following statement:

"We sympathise with Matthew Arena's family over the very sad loss of their loved one after his passing more than five years ago whilst on a Kidman station in the outback.

"As the new owners of Kidman, we have co‐operated with the DPP to bring legal matters to a close, and hope this can enable privacy for the family suffering from their sad loss, and perhaps help to bring some
closure for them.

"The HPPL Group, well supported by our Chinese partners in Kidman, is making significant multi‐million investments in new technology and other investments which will enhance safety of employees on the
Kidman pastoral stations, similar to what we have already done and or are implementing on our other HPPL Group stations."

Local Court Chief Judge John Lowndes will sentence S. Kidman and Co later today.

Prosecutor Mary Chalmers read a victim impact statement titled “A mother’s worst nightmare” on behalf of the victim’s mother Helen Booth.

“I’ve had five years of emotional distress since Matt’s death,” the statement read.

“(S. Kidman and Co) tried to sweep it under the carpet, to keep it quiet.

“I haven’t slept a full night since he died.

“The company has made this worse by prolonging this (court case) and thinking they could get away with it.”

The Court also heard that Booth had struggled to visit friends who had children.

Her statement added that her other son could not bear to come to Court to relive the loss.

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