Former NSW Nationals chair takes blame for farm injury
A former NSW Nationals chair will be sentenced over an incident at his Tamworth farm which left a worker without the use of his left hand.
Bede Burke's case came before the NSW District Court for a directions hearing on Thursday.
His barrister Martin Shume told the court the 63-year-old will plead guilty to the three charges he faces.
In exchange, charges against his wife Narelle will be withdrawn.
Burke will plead guilty to failing to ensure the site of a notifiable incident was not disturbed, failing to ensure that the regulator was notified immediately, and failing to comply with health and safety duty, risking death or serious injury.
He is due to be sentenced on May 29.
The couple own the egg farm near Tamworth where the incident occurred on January 15, 2020.
According to court documents seen by AAP, employee Desmond Saunders was attempting to repair the four-metre high conveyor while standing on a forklift and pallet.
His hand was sliced open and a finger fractured after being caught on the moving belt and dragged underneath the drum roller.
Mr Saunders was taken to Tamworth Hospital and required multiple surgeries and the reconstruction of his left shoulder.
"Saunders has not returned to work and has been left with a permanent impairment of his left hand," agreed facts filed with the court say.
Mr Saunders and another worker, John Wood, were working in the "danger zone" of the conveyor as the machine was turned on and off by Richard Burke at a control panel in a chicken shed 15 metres away.
"There was no electrical or mechanical means, or safe system of work in place, to isolate the manure conveyor during its repair or maintenance," the agreed facts state.
"(Mr Saunders and Mr Wood) were standing on the elevated pallet, and were exposed to entanglement, pinch and shear hazards within the machinery."
A work platform which included guard rails was also available on the premises but was not used.
While Burke, who was chair of the NSW Nationals from 2014 to 2019, was notified of the incident, he allegedly did not inform SafeWork.
Instead, it was brought to the agency's attention by a member of Mr Saunders' family on January 21.
The forklift and pallet were moved and the conveyor repaired by another farmhand.