On 5 September 2023, a scrap metal recycling company was sentenced in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court for failing to comply with a health and safety duty, and in doing so, exposing workers to a risk of death or serious injury.
The defendant recycled material at a scrap metal recycling centre at Coolum Beach. On 23 March 2017, a worker, performed maintenance work on a Scania tilt-cab truck at the scrap metal recycling centre. At that time, the cab of the truck was tilted forwards, there was no other device, such as a cab strut, in between the cab and the chassis of the truck.
The cab of the truck fell onto the worker.
The worker was pinned between the cab of the truck and the front left wheel arch of the truck. He was asphyxiated by the weight of the cab, and he died.
The defendant was obliged to manage the risk of a serious crush, force trauma injury or asphyxia arising from performing maintenance work on the truck while the cab of the truck was not secured by a cab strut.
The Scania workshop manual relevantly warned, “Always use a cab strut when working under the cab.”
- Should have provided a cab strut to its workers.
- Should have implemented safe work requirements which required a cab strut to be fitted any time the cab of the truck was titled forwards for maintenance work.
- Should have adequately trained, instructed and supervised its workers to ensure that they could safely carry out maintenance on the Scania tilt-cab truck.
After the worker died, the defendant purchased a cab-strut from Scania. The cab-strut cost $254.
Magistrate Stjernqvist heard from the parties on 5 September 2023 at the sentencing proceedings, but reserved his decision until a later date.
On 15 September 2023, his Honour provided written reasons, in which he said he:
- Considered the statement of facts, exhibits and the comparative cases;
- Considered the objects of the Work Health and Safety Act, particularly section 3 which provides that the main object of the Act is to protect workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare through the elimination or minimisation of risks arising from work.
- Considered that the defendant was duty bound to ensure the safety of its workers while at work.
- Found that the issue of the cab strut was significant, and that the worker could not have legally completed repair work in a manner consistent with the Scania manual as the company had never purchased a Scania cab strut.
- Acknowledged that the defendant had pleaded guilty and saved the State the time and expense of a trial.
- Accepted the defence submission that as the defendant company had ceased trading specific deterrence was less relevant, but otherwise accepted the prosecution submission that general deterrence was relevant.
- Considered the impact statements from the deceased worker’s family and the impact that the offending has had on them.
- Considered that the defendant’s director was remorseful and had also felt affected by the offending.
- Considered that the defendant was a small company employing 20 workers at the time of the offending.
- Considered that the defendant co-operated with the investigation.
- Considered that since approximately 2014, the defendant had an awareness of safety evidenced by its engagement of safety training consultants which continued through to 2019.
- Considered that the defendant ceased operating after the offending.
- Considered that the defendant was community minded and donated to local clubs and charities.
- Considered that the defendant had no prior convictions.
- Accepted the prosecution submission that the risk to life was obvious and preventable and that the cure to the risk was apparent and inexpensive. The risk was identified in the Scania Manual which the defendant had at the relevant time.
- Reflected on the comments of President Hall in Waltham v Cairns Synergy Electrical Pty Ltd  ICQ 23 that workers are to be “protected whether they are fit or fatigued, careful or careless, experienced or inexperienced, overconfident of their skills or simply foolish. The obligation is not discharged by engaging experienced staff and trusting them to care for themselves.”
The defendant company was fined $175,000 and his Honour did not record a conviction. He also ordered the defendant company to pay $1,500 costs and the $99.70 filing fee.
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