On 10 August 2023, a company which conducted slashing and mowing work and its director were sentenced in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with their health and safety duties pursuant to sections 19(1) and 27(1) respectively. The corporate defendant was fined $70,000, and the individual defendant was fined $10,000.
The corporate defendant conducted a business which conducted work such as slashing and mowing grass, including at vacant land development sites. Individual defendant is the sole director of that business.
The business owned a tractor and a slasher attachment. The business had a written procedure in place titled “Tractor Slashing – Mounted Slasher”. This document specified to “never carry out any service work under a slasher unless it is supported on all four corners”.
The business engaged workers, including the injured worker. On 4 September 2020, the business was conducting work at development site in Flagstone. The injured worker was present at this site on that date.
The previous day, wire had become entangled in the in the blades of the slasher attachment. The business had no written procedure in place regarding the task of removing wire and other debris from the slasher attachment. It had become commonplace among workers of the business to elevate and support the slasher attachment using only two stands, or using the bucket of another tractor, while wire or debris was being removed.
The injured worker and another worker used two stands to elevate the slasher attachment and began working underneath it to remove the wire. As they were working, the two stands fell over, causing the slasher attachment to fall on the two men.
The injured worker sustained multiple injuries as a result of the incident. He required surgery to rebuild his chest and was placed in a two-week coma following the incident.
The corporate defendant failed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers. The individual defendant, as the director of the business, failed to exercise due diligence to ensure that the business complied with its duty.
Reasonably practicable measures which could have been implemented to eliminate or minimise the risk include ensuring:
In sentencing, Magistrate Duroux took into account the defendants’ early pleas of guilty and their lack of prior convictions for offences under the Act.
His Honour accepted that following the incident, there were a number of measures put in place to ameliorate the risk. His Honour accepted those were positive steps but indicated that he could not give undue weight to them and must deal with the objective gravity of the offending.
His Honour had regard to the cases placed before him and noted that there is a need for specific and general deterrence.
His Honour considered the risk to be obvious. His Honour noted that there were uncomplicated steps that could have been taken, and that complacency had set in.
His Honour considered the corporate defendant to be a good corporate citizen, and the noted health issues of the individual defendant.
Having regard to all matters placed before the court, his Honour imposed fines of $70,000 in relation to the corporate defendant and $10,000 in relation to the individual defendant. His Honour exercised his discretion to not record convictions.
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Sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
Sections 27(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011