On 4 August 2023, a company engaged in the business of manufacturing bedding and foam was sentenced in the Ipswich 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 pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act.

Part of the manufacturing process included the cutting of “foam buns”, which ranged in weight from 58kg to 206kg. In order for the foam to be cut, it needed to be transported from storage onto a carousel. This was done by a forklift lifting the foam onto a trolley, which was then loaded onto the carousel by a vacuum hoist, if operational, or manually by workers. The remote control used for the vacuum hoist required two AA batteries, however it was common for the batteries to be flat, with no available replacements. Additionally, the vacuum hoist could only be used on particular foam buns. It was therefore a common occurrence that workers manually loaded the foam buns onto the carousel, which involved lifting and pushing.

On 11 February 2021, a worker employed as a machine operator was manually loading a foam bun onto the carousel, as the vehicle hoist remote control batteries were flat, and she was advised that there were no replacements. The foam bun weighed 132.37kg, and the worker determined that it was too heavy to load onto the carousel by herself. Another worker assisted her to push the foam bun onto the carousel, however after pushing the foam bun multiple times, the worker felt excruciating pain on the right side of her hip, buttocks and down the back of her leg to her foot. She was diagnosed with a broad based disc bulge and central disc protrusion. As a result of her back injury, she sustained a right sided foot drop. The worker underwent spinal surgery, and following the surgery experienced leg numbness and was unable to move her right foot.

Prior to the incident, an inspector from Work Health and Safety Queensland (“WHSQ”) attended the workplace and provided information and training to company managers and supervisors in relation to the definition of hazardous manual tasks. WHSQ also provided education on musculoskeletal disorder associated with hazardous manual tasks, and the legislative requirements relating to managing such risks.

The defendant company should have implemented a safe system of work for the loading of foam buns, such as requiring the use of the vacuum hoist lifter or forklift to load the foam buns, requiring the use of rechargeable batteries in the vacuum hoist remote controller, and/or prohibiting the manual handling of the foam buns. Alternatively, the defendant company should have ensured the provision of training, instruction, and supervision to ensure that workers did not manually load the foam buns. Following the incident, the defendant company introduced the use of rechargeable batteries for the vacuum hoist and the use of a forklift to load the foam buns onto the carousel, removing the need for workers to manually load the foam buns.

In sentencing, His Honour Magistrate Byrne took into account the Victim Impact Statement of the worker who was injured, noting that her life had been turn upside down as a result of the injury. His Honour also considered the defendant company’s cooperation with the administration of justice, having particular regard to their early plea of guilty. His Honour had regard to the fact that the company had no prior history of Work Health and Safety breaches, and that the company had implemented post-incident measures, which were too late for the injured person, but not for other workers engaged in the manufacturing process following the incident.   

In all the circumstances, His Honour imposed a fine of $60,000, and awarded costs to the prosecution. His Honour exercised his discretion to not record a conviction.

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

Court Report

Date of offence
Musculoskeletal Injury
Ipswich Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Byrne
Decision date

Section 32 and section 19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Maximum fine available
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
2 months
Conviction recorded