On 7 April 2021, a livestock transportation company was sentenced in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court for failing to immediately notify the regulator of a notifiable incident, in contravention of section 38(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Magistrate Kay Ryan imposed a fine of $5,000 and no conviction was recorded.
The defendant company operated a small transport business that specialised in the transportation of livestock. On 8 March 2018, two workers employed by the defendant company transported a broken-down truck on the tray of a tilt tray truck to a site in Wacol for repair. At the site, one of the workers fell from the tray of the stationary tilt tray truck and struck his head on the ground below. The other worker reported the incident to the director of the defendant company that same day. The injured worker was admitted to hospital as an inpatient for seven days and received treatment for a fractured skull.
The regulator was first notified of the incident on or around 18 June 2019, when the injured worker notified Workplace Health and Safety Queensland of the incident. The defendant did not notify the regulator of the incident on 8 March 2018 or at any time before the regulator was notified on 18 June 2019.
Magistrate Ryan observed that the defendant company had, by its own omission, failed to abide by its duty to notify as it was ignorant of its obligation. Her Honour noted that ignorance of the law was not an excuse, but observed it was a factor that may be taken into account to a certain extent.
Her Honour observed the defendant’s failure to report the incident was the only allegation in this case. The incident remained unreported for one year and three months, which was an aggravating factor. Her Honour considered the need to penalise the defendant company for its omission, in addition to the need to deter the offender and other persons from failing to comply with their positive duty to notify the regulator of a notifiable incident.
In mitigation, Magistrate Ryan took into account the defendant’s early plea of guilty, the otherwise good character of the company, having no previous convictions and the company’s financial difficulties after being defrauded by a former employee and as a result of COVID-19. Her Honour also had regard to the fact that the injured worker returned to working for the company, albeit in a limited capacity. The defendant company was in external administration, however, her Honour noted the company was hopeful that it would be released shortly.
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Section 38(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011