On 22 July 2021, a manufacturing company and its director were sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for offences of obstructing Inspectors, contrary section 188 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’). Magistrate Michael Quinn fined the company $6,000 and imposed on its director a work health and safety undertaking pursuant to section 239 of the Act, in the sum of $4,000 for a period of 12 months.

On 18 December 2019, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (‘WHSQ’) Inspectors attended the business premises of the defendant company at Seventeen Mile Rocks and sought entry to undertake compliance activities. The Inspectors identified themselves and showed their Inspector identification to the director and a health and safety manager, who both refused the Inspectors permission to enter. The following day, 19 December, the Inspectors again attended the workplace and repeated their request for entry were refused again by the same individuals. On each occasion, the Inspectors were obstructed in carrying out their duties as a WHSQ Inspector.

In sentencing, Magistrate Quinn observed that WHSQ are not to be impeded in their lawful work activities in order to maintain public confidence in ensuring worker safety at workplaces. He noted the Inspectors repeatedly requested access, which was repeatedly refused.

His Honour noted the submissions by the defendants that there was a history of considerable acrimony between the defendants and a union which, the director claimed, led to confusion as to why the Inspectors were seeking entry and the subsequent refusal of entry. The Magistrate commented there was considerable public interest in ensuring safety of workers by WHS Inspectors attending workplaces and exercising, unimpeded, their lawful compliance powers. His Honour observed that it was clear that attending WHSQ Inspectors identified themselves as separate from the union as they carried and presented their identification when seeking entry.

Magistrate Quinn found that general deterrence was important when determining the appropriate penalty and, to a lesser extent, specific deterrence. His Honour accepted the defendants had entered early pleas of guilty, which showed remorse and cooperation, and this moderated the penalty. He noted that the parties accepted there had not been any repetition of offending since these offences and considered that the defendant and the manager were now aware of their responsibilities. His Honour accepted and too into account that neither defendant had any previous convictions for a breach of the Act.

His Honour imposed global penalties for each defendant.

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

Court Report

General
Industry
Manufacturing
Date of offence
Injury
Nil
Court
Brisbane Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Michael Quinn
Decision date
Company
Legislation

Charge 1: Section 188 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011; Charge 2: Section 188 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
$6,000
Maximum fine available
$50,000
Professional and legal costs
$1,000
Court costs
$99.70
In default period
N/A
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded
No
Company Officer
Legislation

Charge 1: Section 188 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011; Charge 2: Section 188 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
12-month court-ordered undertaking, pursuant to section 239 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, with a recognisance of $4,000
Compensation
N/A
Maximum fine available
$10,000
Professional and legal costs
$500
Court costs
$99.70
In default period
Referred to SPER
Time to pay
28 days
Conviction recorded
No