On 10 July 2023, a shed company was fined $100,000 in the Bundaberg Magistrates Courts for a section 32 (Category 2) offence pursuant to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act.
The defendant owned and operated a company which produced sheds, patios, roofing and steel framing at its workplace. The defendant had a hydraulic press at its workplace. The press had a hazardous unguarded crush area. In 2008, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland issued a notice in respect of the press. The press was then appropriately guarded but that guarding was removed at an unknown time prior to 3 February 2021.
On 27 January 2021, the defendant employed an inexperienced worker as a shed erector. The worker did not receive an induction, nor had he been appropriately trained in using the press.
The defendant also employed other people, including a production manager, and a machinist.
On 3 February 2021, the production manager directed the machinist to make guttering using the press. The machinist demonstrated the general function of the press twice to the worker. The worker operated the press twice while the machinist watched. The machinist did not demonstrate how the emergency stop button worked. The worker then used the press unsupervised.
The worker tried to straighten a sheet of metal within the press and while the press was in use, he moved his right hand off the controls and placed it in the unguarded crush area of the press. His right hand was crushed by the press (which severed the fingers from his hand).
Three of the worker’s fingers were able to be re-attached to his hand after urgent plastic surgery. His pinkie finger and the padding on his thumb were unable to be re-attached. The worker required, and still requires, extensive surgery and rehabilitation to repair his hand.
The defendant failed to appropriately train the worker on the use of the press, which could have been done with minimal inconvenience. The defendant should have appropriately trained the worker to use the press.
The defendant failed to appropriately guard the press, which could have been done at a reasonable cost (between $10,000 to $15,000). The defendant should have fitted appropriate guarding to the press.
The defendant’s failures, exposed workers to a risk of serious injury - a risk which, unfortunately, manifested on 3 February 2021 when the worker’s right hand was badly mangled by the press.
In sentencing the defendant, Magistrate Rowan had regard to the sentencing principles in section 9 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. It was accepted that the defendant had entered an early guilty plea, was a good corporate citizen, had no prior convictions, and had implemented further safety measures after the offending.
Magistrate Rowan observed that general deterrence was a powerful consideration and that the community generally denounces the conduct. Magistrate Rowan referred to the ongoing medical and mental health issues experienced by the worker, as set out in the worker’s victim impact statement.
In light of those factors and the comparable decisions referred to by the parties, Magistrate Rowan imposed a fine of $100,000, along with professional costs and the filing fee. No conviction was recorded.
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Sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011