On 18 March 2021, a sand mine worker pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court for failing to ensure his acts did not risk the health and safety of other persons, which exposed others to a risk of death or serious injury contrary to section 32 Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘WHS Act’). Magistrate McLaughlin imposed a fine of $7,500 and no conviction was recorded.
The defendant was employed by a company that operated a sand mine. On 18 March 2019, the defendant and two other employees were instructed by the director to fix a valve on the pipe of a sand wash plant. Two workers were to carry out the repair by standing in the bucket of a front-end wheel loader, with the bucket lifted to the height of the pipe on the sand wash plant.
The defendant operated the wheel loader with the two other workers in its bucket. The defendant raised them to a height above four metres and drove the wheel loader towards the sand wash plant so they could conduct the repairs. At one point, the bucket tilted forward. One of workers jumped out of the bucket and onto the plant so they did not fall from height. The second worker’s head was caught between the draw bar and a chain wrapped around the pipe. The second worker could not move his head as the bucket pushed against it. The defendant stopped the wheel loader at the request of the first worker and the bucket released the head of the worker. The worker sustained laceration to his head which required stitches.
In sentencing, his Honour considered the nature of the task and noted that there were proper machines suitable for the task. His Honour commented the defendant’s actions were “cutting a corner”, but accepted that the defendant was instructed by his manager to carry out the work in that dangerous manner. However, his Honour indicated that the defendant ought to have known better given his age and experience, and should have refused to do it that way. Magistrate McLaughlin commented that the workers were not secure in the bucket, could have fallen out and there was a clear risk of them being killed or seriously injured from the conduct.
In mitigation, his Honour took account of the defendant’s early plea, his apologies to the injured worker and his personal circumstances, including his age and financial capacity to pay a fine. His Honour imposed a fine in the sum of $7,500 and costs in the amount of $600, but indicated that if the defendant’s financial circumstances were different then a fine in the range of $15,000 to $20,000 may have been appropriate. His Honour exercised a discretion not to record a conviction.
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Sections 28 and 32 Work Health and Safety Act 2011