On 13 November 2023, Gough Industries Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Townsville 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 under section 19 of the Act.
The defendant was engaged in the business of manufacturing plastic products including plastic water tanks. Large cylindrical moulds were stored on a mezzanine floor platform at the workplace. This platform was located above a worker’s station that workers would attend at the commencement of their shift. There was a forklift at the workplace which was used by licensed workers to remove the moulds from the platform. Workers were trained by other workers on how to do this task. There was a general exclusion zone implemented for workers to remain 3 metres from operating forklifts, however the defendant did not do a risk assessment and had not implemented a Safe Work Method Statement for the work activity of using the forklift to remove the moulds from the platform.
On 17 May 2021, two workers were at the worker’s station below the platform. Another worker was operating the forklift to remove a 10,000L mould from the platform when it knocked an adjacent mould, causing it to fall. As it fell, it struck one of the workers who had moved adjacent to the worker’s station, and he subsequently sustained serious fracture injuries to his spine, requiring hospitalisation and surgery.
Work Health and Safety Queensland investigated the matter and issued improvement notices to the company which were complied with. Post incident, the defendant removed the moulds from the platform and amended its Traffic Management Plan to include specific guidance on exclusion zones that were to be maintained within the workplace.
The defendant had previously been sentenced for a category 2 offence in the Townsville Magistrates Court in 2017.
In sentencing the defendant on 13 November 2023, Magistrate Susan Warrington had regard to the submissions made by the prosecution and the defence, as well as the nature of the offending, noting that it was serious. Her Honour noted the objectives of the Act and what was required to achieve its aims.
Her Honour had regard to the relevant sentencing principles, stating that the penalty needed to reflect specific deterrence, particularly considering the defendant’s prior offending. Her Honour also noted the need to deter others from failing to comply with the primary duty of care owed to workers, and the need for the penalty to reflect the community’s denunciation of the offending. Her Honour found assistance from the case of Guilfoyle v Wild Breads Pty Ltd  QDC 58, but noted it was distinguishable on the basis that this defendant had been sentenced previously for a category 2 offence, and this offending resulted in more serious injuries. It was accepted by Magistrate Warrington that there was a foreseeable risk of injury from the work activity.
Having regard to all these matters, Her Honour imposed a fine of $100,000 and ordered that a conviction be recorded.
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Sections 19(1), 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011