An entertainment events company and its sole director held respective duties under ss 19(2) and 27(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’). On 10 November 2020, both defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching s 32 of the Act, having failed to comply with their work health and safety duties.
The defendant company, through its director, conducted a business which included organising, promoting and managing entertainment events featuring, amongst other things, displays of monster trucks and stunt cars. During 2018, it hired the Mt Gravatt Showgrounds to hold a family friendly monster trucks event on 27 October 2018. As part of the preparation and set up for that event, the company hired temporary fencing in the form of crowd control barriers, to delineate the area where vehicles would perform and where spectators could watch. The crowd control barriers were free standing steel fencing panels, each approximately 1.2 metres high, clipped together to form a low temporary fence.
Part of the event’s main show involved purpose-built stunt cars, which were designed to roll over, travelling around the field in the area enclosed by temporary fencing and lightly impacting each other. Numerous spectators were standing or sitting directly behind the steel fence surrounding the small field. There was no further barrier between the field where the stunt cars were performing and the steel fence.
During the event, a driver lost control of a stunt car, causing it to continue travelling forward at low speed and impact that fencing, pushing a section of it over onto the spectators positioned behind it. As a result, one adult spectator and two children sustained minor injuries including cuts, bruising and swelling.
The investigation revealed that suitable barriers capable of withstanding low speed head-on impacts by vehicles, such as temporary plastic water-filled barriers, were available for hire and should have been installed.
In sentencing the defendant, Magistrate Daley accepted there was a need for general and specific deterrence. The hazard requiring management was the operation of stunt vehicles in proximity to crowds of spectators. There was a failure to ensure appropriate barriers were placed between vehicles and spectators, with the expert report confirming there were appropriate barriers available for hire.
Her Honour observed that, although the vehicles were travelling at low speed, the risk that they may encounter mechanical issues or be operated incorrectly needed to be taken into account by the company.
While the defendants claimed to be reliant upon security to enforce an exclusion zone between spectators and the fencing, the four security guards at the event were inadequate, given the number of people in attendance. Her Honour observed that the offending was a result of complacency by the defendants and there was a need for bigger barriers to be in place.
Her Honour had regard to the timely plea and lack of previous convictions of the defendants. Her Honour acknowledged that the director had been working in the industry for approximately 26 years. It was acknowledged that, since the incident, the company had enforced a no-go-zone around barriers at events and hired additional security. Regard was had to the significant impact of COVID-19 upon the defendant company’s business, with the company only earning 10% of its previous income.
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Sections 19(2) and 32, Work Health and Safety Act 2011