On 18 June 2024, a corporation pleaded guilty to a ‘Category 2’ offence contrary to s 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the WHS Act’) and was fined $180,000 plus costs.

The defendant had a duty as a person conducting a business or undertaking, pursuant to s 19(1) of the WHS Act, to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers engaged, or caused to be engaged by it, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, that they failed to comply with that duty and the failure exposed an individual to the risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The defendant operates a business which includes maintenance, servicing, and repair of forklift trucks.

On the date of the offence, a 31-year-old Field Service Technician (‘the worker’) was tasked to replace the lifting chains on a forklift.

He used transport chains to secure the lifting carriage of the forklift to the mast at a height of approximately 1.5 metres, prior to loosening the top nuts attached to both load-bearing lifting chains at the top of the forklift mast.

After completely removing one lifting chain by removing the nut attaching the lifting at the base of the lifting carriage, the worker experienced difficulty removing the second lifting chain while loosening the remaining nut fixed to the base of the carriage.

He positioned himself underneath the lifting carriage and loosened the nut securing the remaining lift chain with the assistance of a ‘rattle gun.’

Upon loosening the nut securing the remaining lifting chain, the lifting carriage fell from about chest height striking him in a crouched position, trapping him underneath. The carriage with attached tines weighed between approximately 500kg to 1000kg.

The transport chain used by the worker was not secured correctly and did not restrain the lifting carriage at height to prevent it from falling and striking him.

As a result of being struck and trapped, the worker sustained serious injuries including a severed spinal cord resulting in permanent paraplegia from the waist down.

The defendant did not have in place a safe system of work for the replacement of lifting chains on forklift trucks.

The defendant presumed that the workers, based on their qualifications and work history, had the skills necessary to safely carry out assigned tasks autonomously. These assumptions were never verified. Prior to the incident, the defendant had not assigned any person the role of supervising or checking on the worker in the way he carried out any of his tasks.

No training or supervision was afforded to the worker or other workers regarding the task of lift chain replacement or how to secure heavy objects of any kind.

The defendant had axle stands available which could be placed under a lifting carriage to restrain it from falling from height while lifting chains are being replaced. However, these stands were not invariably used by workers while replacing lifting chains.

Magistrate Shearer, referenced the worker’s victim impact statement noting that in addition to losing the use of his legs, the worker is unable to function his urinary and bowel movements without assistance, and that his sexual function has been dramatically impacted. He is now totally reliant on his parents and children for care.

The Magistrate noted that the worker had been left with lifelong injuries which had ruined his lifestyle. His life span had undoubtedly been shortened. His life had changed to one which is ‘not a whole lot better than if he had died’.

In weighing the factors considered in Nash v Silver City Drilling (NSW) Pty Ltd [2017] NSWCCA 96, the Magistrate found the offending to be serious, noting that the probability of the risk being realised was close to 100%. The risk was obvious and easily prevented. The steps available to minimise the risk were not even slightly inconvenient.

The defendant should have enforced a rule protecting workers from the risk, so that there was no room for manoeuvre by workers to shortcut such rule.

The Magistrate noted by way of mitigation, the defendant’s guilty plea, that it was a first offence for the defendant and the rectification to its work systems which the defendant had implemented since the incident.

In applying the principles in s 9 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, His Honour noted that he had considered the need for general deterrence and denunciation of the offending, rehabilitation of the offender, the need to protect the community and the impact of the offending on the worker.

No conviction was record against the defendant.

The defendant was also ordered to pay professional costs of $1,500 plus court fees of $101.40.

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

Court Report

Transport, postal and warehousing
Date of offence
Permanent paraplegia
Richlands Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Stuart Shearer
Decision date

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

$180,000 fine
Maximum fine available
$1,500,000 fine
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded