Sugar mill worker John Erikson died after a 2012 workplace accident.
Sugar mill worker John Erikson died after a 2012 workplace accident. Contributed

Mill worker killed: Sugar company appeal thrown out

PROSECUTION of a sugar company will go ahead after mill worker John Erikson's death.

Mr Erikson, 46, was killed in November 2012.

Wilmar operated the sugar mill where the Proserpine man died.

The company has repeatedly gone to court to avoid prosecution.

Singapore-based Wilmar bought the mill less than a year before the tragedy.

And courts have heard Wilmar spent about $5 million improving operations at the Proserpine mill.

The sugar firm wanted an "enforceable undertaking" instead of being criminally prosecuted for Mr Erikson's death.

After the accident, Simon Blackwood, as health and safety regulator, appointed an independent panel.

That panel recommended Mr Blackwood accept the undertaking option.

But Mr Blackwood decided not to.

So Wilmar challenged Mr Blackwood's reasons for not doing so, seeking judicial review of his decision.

But last year Justice James Douglas dismissed that judicial review application.

Then Wilmar appealed against that dismissal, so the dispute went to Queensland Court of Appeal.

Wilmar told the appeal court it had "good past performance" in health and safety matters.

Justice Walter Sofronoff said that wasn't the point.

In a judgment delivered on Tuesday, he said Wilmar's status "as a good corporate citizen was never in doubt".

But Justice Sofronoff said Mr Blackwood had found that Wilmar failed to ensure worker safety in the important area of "cane rail safety".

In another ground of appeal, Wilmar claimed Mr Blackwood made his decision "unreasonably".

But the appeal court dismissed that.

Wilmar said Mr Blackwood gave inadequate reasons for rejecting the panel's recommendation but the appeal court rejected that claim too.

The Office of Industrial Relations will continue its prosecution of Wilmar, and the case will be mentioned in Proserpine Magistrates Court on August 6.

A Wilmar spokeswoman said the company hoped it would be allowed "reasonable further time" to consider its options.

She said Wilmar was still disappointed the independent panel's recommendation was overruled.

Previously, Justice Douglas said Mr Erikson was struck in the back and caught between a cane bin and fixed braking system.

Mr Erikson was taken to Mackay Base Hospital for treatment but died soon after. -NewsRegional 

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