On 14 October 2021, a warehouse assistant was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with his health and safety duty as a worker pursuant to section 28 of the Act. Magistrate Judith Daley convicted and fined the defendant $2,000. The conviction was not recorded.
The defendant was employed as a warehouse assistant for a charitable organisation that distributed foodstuffs from a large warehouse. In the course of his duties, the defendant operated a forklift and was a licensed forklift operator with over 10 years’ experience. On 13 March 2020, the defendant was operating a forklift to load goods into transport vehicles in a marked loading zone area outside the warehouse. In the course of doing so, he struck and injured an elderly pedestrian volunteer worker who was standing at the rear of one of the transport vehicles. The injured worker sustained multiple fractures to his right hip and foot requiring surgical intervention.
In sentencing, Magistrate Daley noted the injured worker was on a break and had located himself in an area which was restricted to operating forklifts only. Her Honour noted there was some confusion as to whether pedestrian workers could locate themselves in this area and further observed that in any event, the forklift operator was responsible to exercise all due care to keep a lookout for any pedestrians that may be around the work area. Her Honour noted that forklifts are quite dangerous machines and if they are involved in a collision, significant injuries may occur, as did here, where the injuries consisted of multiple fractures to the leg and hip of an elderly man. Her Honour noted the injured person had made a full recovery.
Her Honour took into account the early plea of guilty and that the defendant did not have any previous convictions, noting he had been employed as a forklift operator for more than 10 years. Her Honour considered that general deterrence loomed large in any penalty consideration for a work health and safety breach.
Her Honour noted that the defendant was only in receipt of a very modest income from his employment with the charity, where he remained employed, and that needed to be taken into account when deciding the appropriate penalty.
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Section 28 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011