On 21 March 2024, a timber 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 pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act.

The defendant conducted a business which included woodchipping operations using a Peterson 5000H woodchipper. Workers had been engaged to operate and maintain the woodchipper, which included the repair of the woodchipper disc mechanism which weighed approximately 2.2 tonnes.

On 27 August 2021, workers were repairing the woodchipper disc which had been removed used a mobile crane the day prior. The disc had been placed in an upright position on its edge. Timber blocks were the only safeguards from preventing the disc rolling or falling over. Whilst using a long torque wrench to conduct the repairs, the woodchipper disc fell, causing the long torque wrench to strike the leg of a worker. The impact of the wrench caused significant injuries to his right leg, including soft tissue injuries, multiple fractures and dislocation which required over 40 days in hospital and multiple surgeries.

The defendant failed to implement control measures which included using a gantry or crane attached to the disc mechanism to secure the woodchipper disc, and documenting procedure and instructions for maintenance and repair of the woodchipper disc.

In sentencing, Magistrate Strofield considered the material placed before him and took into account the defendant’s early plea of guilty, remorse, evidence of good corporate citizenship and the support provided to the victim in the aftermath of the incident.

Emphasis was placed on the company being a small, family-run business and noted that the defendant had a comprehensive work health and safety management system which was in place before the incident, but acknowledging this was deficient.

His Honour also placed weight upon the victim impact statement and the profound impact the incident had on the worker’s life. His Honour found that the risk was obvious and foreseeable, but concluded that the gap in the defendant’s safety procedures and risk assessment was narrow.

In light of these factors, His Honour convicted the defendant without recording a conviction, ordered a fine of $70,000 and $1,601.40 total in costs. The defendant was given 2 months to pay.

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

Court Report

Date of offence
Compound leg injuries, knee, soft tissue, permanent
Brisbane Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Colin Strofield
Decision date

Sections 19(1) & 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

$70,000 Fine
Maximum fine available
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
2 months
Conviction recorded