On 9 April 2024, a company director pleaded guilty to a ‘Category 2’ offence contrary to s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the WHS Act’).

On 13 June 2024, Magistrate Shane Elliott imposed a fine of $30,000.

The defendant failed in their duty as an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking, to exercise due diligence to ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking complied with its duty under section 19(1) of the WHS Act, and that failure exposed an individual to the risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The defendant company manufactures pressed wood panels.

Glue is applied to timber panels by passing through a glue spreading machine before laminate is affixed.

On 22 November 2021, a young worker was cleaning excess glue from the rollers of the glue spreading machine, using a toilet brush to scrub the rollers while they were rotating.

His right arm was drawn into the rollers and became entrapped which resulted in serious injuries including a fracture at the elbow and compartment syndrome of the forearm.

The magistrate referenced the safety instructions issued by the plant supplier (a tendered exhibit) which commenced with a warning in bold red print in all capitals and underlined which provided an important notice regarding roller cleaning procedures. It went on to warn that operators are to never try to clean machine with rollers running.

The operation of the plant had been demonstrated to the company manager and company operations manager by representatives of the plant supplier when it was commissioned and were verbally told that the machine was not to be cleaned while it was being operated.

The defendant ignored the clear written and verbal safety directions of the supplier of the plant, by instructing the worker to clean the rollers while they were rotating, which the magistrate considered amounted to reckless indifference.

At the sentencing hearing held on 9 April 2024, defence counsel advanced an argument that the defendant should only receive a modest penalty in the sum of $1,000 based on a Court of Appeal decision in R v White Ex Parte Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions [2017] QCA 140 which adopted the reasoning of McGill DCJ in Berceanu v Boltons Real Estate Pty Ltd [2004] QDC 18 which held that in a closely held family company, it is important to avoid a sentence which would in substance amount to punishing the director twice for what is essentially the same criminal conduct.

The magistrate rejected this argument commenting that the duties of the company and the director are not the same and cited sections 16 and 17 of the Act.

The magistrate took into account the defendant’s plea of guilty, that they had no previous convictions, and is of good character.

He also took into account the objectively serious nature of the offending and the maximum penalty for the offence.

Applying the sentencing principles in section 9(1) of the Penalties and Sentences Act, he considered the need for deterrence, denunciation and punishment as well as the impact on the victim.

He considered the offending was more serious than in Reynolds v Tailored Adventures Pty Ltd [2019] QDC 150, as that case did not involve an element of reckless indifference.

No conviction was record against the defendant.

The company was also fined the sum of $100,000 in relation to the incident.

OWHSP contact: enquiries@owhsp.qld.gov.au (ref: E310337)

Court Report

Date of offence
Fracture at the elbow and compartment syndrome of the forearm
Beenleigh Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Shane Elliott
Decision date

Sections 27(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

$30,000 fine
Maximum fine available
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded