On 27 September 2023, a forklift operator in the role of manager/supervisor was sentenced in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court for failing to comply with his duty owed pursuant to section 28(b) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, breaching section 32 of the Act.
The defendant was employed by a manufacturing company as a manager or supervisor and would operate a forklift. On 14 February 2022 the defendant was unloading a delivery of glass to the workplace via forklift and asked another worker to be a “spotter” and hold or place their hand on the glass he was to transport. This occurred several times as the defendant transported the glass from the delivery into the factory. As the final pack of glass was being transported the spotter stumbled and the wheel of the forklift, operated by the defendant, went over his left foot. The spotter was transported to hospital for treatment. Due to the crush injuries sustained his left leg was amputated just below the knee. The worker also sustained a large laceration on his left arm which required staples.
The defendant had conducted safety talks at the workplace including regarding forklifts in March 2021. During these talks the defendant directed other workers that walking beside a moving forklift was not allowed. This instruction was consistent with the workplace’s implemented safe work procedure which prohibited pedestrian workers being within the operating area of a forklift.
His Honour Magistrate Michael O’Driscoll found there was no dispute as to the facts of the offending and that it was a “very serious matter” which had “serious consequences” to both the victim and the defendant who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder post incident. His Honour highlighted the obligation to ensure safety was paramount to all.
It was accepted by his Honour that the offending involved a deliberate and repeated act by the defendant and that the resulting risk was significant, involving a departure from the reasonable standard of conduct in the workplace for safety. His Honour indicated that the fact he was a manager meant he “should have known better.”
In sentencing, his Honour accepted that the defendant had entered an early plea, had no history and cooperated with the administration or justice and investigation through participating in a voluntary interview. It was noted by His Honour that the offending was of concern to the community, and that deterrence and denunciation were important factors to be taken into account.
Taking into account all factors, His Honour imposed a fine in the amount of $15,000 and declined to to record a conviction.
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Sections 28(b) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011