On 30 January 2024, a mobile crane operator was sentenced in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 ('the Act'), having failed to comply with his health and safety duty as a worker pursuant to section 28 of the Act.

The charge stems from an incident on 19 August 2021, when a 42-year-old worker (‘the deceased’) was killed at a worksite in Staplyton when he was struck by a mobile crane operated by the defendant. The defendant was employed by a company which manufactured, distributed, and sold inground fibreglass swimming pools. The company owned and operated a 1994 Franna 12 tonne mobile crane (‘the crane’) which was used to move pools during different parts of the manufacture process. The defendant had worked for the company for over five years as a crane driver, and, prior to that, as a crane driver for another pool company for eight years. He had a licence to perform high risk work which he received following training on how to operate a slewing mobile crane. However, his operation of the crane was not without incident. Three months before this incident, the defendant reversed the crane into a parked car at the worksite, and he had also previously been spoken to by colleagues about his operation of the crane.

On 19 August 2021, the defendant was operating the crane which was slinging a 650-kilogram fibreglass pool. The deceased was acting as a dogman (controlling movement of the load), holding the tether line attached to the pool. He initially walked in front of the crane, then moved to the left of the crane as the defendant reversed and straightened onto the driveway at the worksite. The defendant drove forward down the driveway as the deceased moved in front of the crane, steadying the load. As the distance between the deceased and the crane closed in, the defendant struck the deceased with the crane. He was knocked to the ground and the defendant continued driving over the top of him until he felt a bump and could no longer see the deceased, then reversed back over the lower half of the deceased’s body. A nearby colleague ran to the deceased’s aid, and another worker rendered first aid. Paramedics attended but unfortunately the deceased was unable to be revived.

The subsequent workplace investigation revealed that the company did not have a traffic management system, nor a safe work method statement or documented safe operating procedure for the operation of the crane, and also failed to have procedures in place for exclusion zones. The company also failed to provide training on dogman or rigging duties, spotters were not used, and there was no system of communication between the dogger and crane operator. The company and its facility manager have both been charged with industrial manslaughter arising out of the incident. The defendant, by his plea, accepted that he failed to take reasonable care that his actions did not affect the health and safety of the deceased worker. He brought the hazard into existence by permitting the deceased to be in such close proximity to the crane, while failing to maintain a line of sight or communication with the deceased.

In sentencing, Magistrate Elliott took into account the defendant's early plea of guilty, that he expressed remorse, the circumstances of the offending (as shown in the CCTV footage played to the court) and that the defendant was 65 years old and had no prior convictions. His Honour also noted that the company had limited safe work practices and this was ultimately an 'accident waiting to happen', but acknowledged that workers also have a responsibility to uphold their workplace health and safety duties, and that the potential consequences were high, and the probably of the risk was obvious, and it would have been simple to minimise it. His Honour found that the defendant had knowledge of the potential blind spots given his previous operation of the crane which rendered the matter more serious than some of the comparable sentences to which he was referred, but also acknowledged the defendant's remorse, that he had been a hard worker all of his life, that he had surrendered his crane licence and was now working part-time for a different employer, and the references tendered on his behalf.

His Honour convicted and fined the defendant $25,000, and exercised his discretion not to record a conviction.

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

Court Report

General
Industry
Construction
Date of offence
Injury
Fatality
Court
Beenleigh Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Shane Elliott
Decision date
Worker
Legislation

Sections 28(b), 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
$25,000
Maximum fine available
$150,000
Professional and legal costs
$1,500
Court costs
$101.40
In default period
N/A
Time to pay
2 months, in default refer to SPER
Conviction recorded
No