On 12 May 2022, a Brisbane-based fabrication company was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty to ensure workers’ health and safety, thereby exposing them to the risk of death or serious injury.

The company, which had been operating for 50 years, employed approximately 66 staff, including a worker in the third year of a four-year boilermaker apprenticeship. The worker had received training in using grinders, including where to safely stand in case kick-back occurred.

On 6 October 2020, the worker was tasked with cutting the flange off a section of steel universal beam using a grinder. The worker wore a face shield, safety glasses, long sleeve clothing and hearing protection, but was not wearing a leather apron, and had not been instructed to wear one. Once that task was completed, he commenced cleaning mill scale from the end of the beam. He had not been asked to do this on this occasion, or at any time by the defendant company, but based on previous experience thought it needed to be done to achieve the required finish.

While doing so the grinder caught on the beam, and the grinder ricocheted back towards the worker. The wire wheel attachment on the grinder penetrated the worker’s trousers, causing a laceration to the right hemisphere of his scrotum, exposing his right testis.

The worker was taken to hospital, where the laceration was surgically repaired. He suffered pain, subsequent infection and restricted movement. His lifestyle and home life were impeded. The injury and its consequences also had a significant emotional impact upon the worker. Fortunately, by the time of sentence the worker had made a full recovery. Although he had been unable to work for some time, he was not adversely financially impacted and had finished his apprenticeship.

After the incident, the company increased safety measures for the protection of workers. The company employed a safety and quality manager, improved its inductions process, purchased new angle grinders and new leather aprons for staff, and underwent a safety risk assessment for the use of grinders with a wire wheel attachment.

In sentencing the defendant company, Acting Magistrate Leanne Scoines observed that the primary purpose of the Act is to protect the health and safety of workers. General deterrence is therefore a relevant sentencing feature. The Court reiterated how seriously workers' safety should be taken, and that employers need be diligent and constantly vigilant in respect of it.

Her Honour noted the company’s plea of guilty and good standing, having been in the industry for 50 years, and employing numerous staff, including apprentices, with no prior incidents. However, on this occasion, while several measures were taken to promote safety, those measures fell short of what was required to ensure the worker’s safety on the incident date. Her Honour acknowledged that to a large extent the breaches have been rectified. Having regard to the defendant company’s antecedents, co-operation, remorse, and post-offence conduct, there was a limited need for specific deterrence of the defendant’s company. Ultimately a fine of $50,000 was imposed, and no conviction was recorded.

OWHSP contact: enquiries@owhsp.qld.gov.au

Court Report

Date of offence
Laceration injuries to groin
Brisbane Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Acting Magistrate Leanne Scoines
Decision date
Maximum fine available
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
28 days
Conviction recorded