On 17 September 2021, an air-conditioning mechanic was sentenced in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with his primary health and safety duty pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act.
The defendant operated a business as an air-conditioning mechanic. He was contracted to replace an air-conditioning unit in an office on the mezzanine floor of a commercial premises in Underwood (’the workplace’). This required that the unit’s elements be run along the other side of the office wall, approximately 6 metres above the ground.
On 19 December 2019, the defendant attended the workplace with his friend (‘the worker’), who he had told they were going to “put in an air conditioner”. The defendant did not formally employ the worker, who was not paid for his role at the workplace. At the workplace, a forklift and work platform were brought over from a neighbouring business to use in installing the unit. The work platform was sitting unsecured on the tines of the forklift. It had no tine pockets to secure it to the forklift tines and no harness or attachment points to secure the work platform, or the person on it, to the forklift. The person operating the forklift was not licensed or trained to do so.
The defendant was raised in the work platform to perform some work, before going upstairs to perform work inside the office. At the time of the incident, the worker was assisting with the installation of the air-conditioning unit. The worker was raised in work platform to a height of approximately 4.5 metres, when it tipped off the forklift tines and fell onto the concrete surface below. The worker also fell to the ground and sustained injuries including a cut lip, a laceration to his lower left leg, bruised ribs and a dislocated shoulder.
The defendant was charged with failing to comply with his health and safety duty, primarily through failing to use plant to perform the work that was safe and compliant with requirements of the applicable Australian Standards. The defendant also permitted the forklift and work platform to be operated by persons who were not appropriately trained and did not provide the worker with any training or instruction in relation to the use of the forklift and work platform.
In sentencing, Magistrate Mossop had regard to the need for general deterrence, but a lesser need for specific deterrence as the defendant’s risk of reoffending was low. Her Honour had regard to the defendant’s lack of prior criminal history and his guilty plea, which her considered to be both timely and early. Her Honour considered that the defendant’s actions were careless rather than deliberate. Magistrate Mossop imposed a fine of $20,000 and did not record a conviction.
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Sections 19(1) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011