A construction and project management company, specialising in building and civil construction works was charged with one offence pursuant to s 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the ‘Act’) for breaching the duty it held under s 20(2) of the Act. On 13 October 2020, the defendant company pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Holland Park Magistrates Court.
In 2018, the company was the principal contractor for bathroom and lobby upgrade works to a multistorey tenanted office building in the Brisbane suburb of Mount Gravatt. The works included floor tiling in the lobby area, which the defendant company sub-contracted a tiling company. On the evening of 24 July and the morning of 25 July 2018, the sub-contractor tiling company applied a floor levelling compound in the lobby of the building. The compound required time to dry before the rest of the tiling works could be carried out. The compound was slippery and posed a trip, slip and fall hazard.
On the morning of 25 July 2018, the site supervisor of the defendant company commenced his work shift at the workplace and inspected the foyer area. Upon arrival he disabled one of the three lifts that was located directly in front of an area of the newly surfaced floor. The lift, in a disabled mode, was illuminated with its doors open. The site supervisor observed that limited matting and bollards had been installed as a pathway across the lobby by the sub-contractor, and decided that further matting was required.
As he was installing the matting, several members of the public entered the foyer, walking on the uncovered recently laid floor. Two persons slipped in the area in front of the disabled lift, with one of those people fracturing her left patella, requiring surgical intervention.
In imposing sentence Magistrate Ganasan accepted that the company had some control measures in place, such as matting, bollards and the deactivation of a lift though noted these were inadequate and that it was unfortunate that the lift’s light was illuminated which drew the attention of the persons entering the foyer.
Her Honour accepted that there were additional steps which were obvious and easy to manage, that the defendant could have taken to lessen and minimise the risks. Magistrate Ganasan noted the immediate post incident controls were examples of the steps that could have been taken, accepting that they were not overly burdensome or time consuming.
The post incident controls included additional matting, the placement of more bollards, including one in front of the open lift, and the placement of a table on the unfinished surface to prevent members of the public from traversing there.
In sentencing the defendant company, Magistrate Ganasan stressed the importance of ensuring the health and safety of members of the public when entering or accessing a workplace. The learned Magistrate took into account the need for general and specific deterrence.
In mitigation, Her Honour took into account the defendant company’s cooperation with the
investigation, early plea of guilty and lack of previous convictions. The Magistrate also accepted the defendant company’s significant post incident steps, which included the addition of a full-time work health and safety employee.
In deciding not to record a conviction, Her Honour accepted the otherwise good reputation of the defendant, with no previous offences under the Act.
OWHSP contact: email@example.com
Sections 20(2) and 32 Work Health and Safety Act 2011