On 25 May 2021, the defendant, a sludge dewatering specialist, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Gympie Magistrates Court for breaching section 33 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 Act (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty under section 19(1) the Act.
In the course of their investigation into an incident at another workplace, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland discovered that the defendant did not have appropriate policies or procedures in place for their workers in relation to the loading and unloading of large items of plant at client premises. The activity of loading and unloading large items of plant at other workplaces was not uncommon in the course of the defendant’s work.
On 3 July 2019, a worker at a client workplace was fatally injured whilst assisting in the unloading of a large generator from a flatbed truck. The generator belonged to the defendant and was delivered to the client by one of its employees. The defendant was not charged in relation to the death, nor with exposing their workers or others to the risk of serious injury or death.
The control measures that the defendant could have implemented in order to ensure the health and safety of their workers included instructing their employees that they were prohibited from participating in loading and unloading activities at other workplaces or, when those activities were to be conducted by their employees, having a specific work procedure in place for the safe movement of plant.
The defendant co-operated with the investigation, including by voluntarily providing material to investigators and participating in record of interview.
In sentencing the defendant, Magistrate Fowler took into account the defendant’s timely plea and acknowledged the significant steps taken by it post-incident. His Honour accepted that the defendant already had systems in place, but that they engaged in rectification work and audits of their health and safety systems, and those of client businesses, at a substantial cost, as a result of the incident.
His Honour noted the defendant’s lack of criminal history, its positive contributions to the community, including in a charitable context, and its co-operation with the investigation. His Honour held that the defendant’s conduct demonstrated its remorse.
OWHSP contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sections 19(1) and 33 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011