On 6 April 2023, a worker was fined a total of $7,000 in the Toogoolawah Magistrates Courts for a Category 2 offence under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, after a resident of the property he was attending fell 2.3 metres from the top of a water tank.

The defendant worker was employed by a company that operated a business in Esk which included the leasing of machinery, including cranes, and where required, an operator. The defendant worker had been employed by the company for approximately 8 years as a truck driver, machine equipment operator and general hand.

On 2 November 2020, the company supplied a vehicle loading crane and the defendant worker, to perform the task of moving a water tank at a residential property. The worker held a high-risk work licence authorising him to operate various types of machinery, but he did not, and had never held, the relevant class of licence to operate that particular type of vehicle loading crane.

On the date of the incident, a resident of the property made efforts to assist with relocating the tank by fitting hooks and straps to the water tank, in advance of the worker’s attendance at the property. The defendant worker used the vehicle loading crane to move the tank a short distance, before stopping to reposition the crane. The resident used a ladder to climb onto the tank and detach the crane from the straps at the top of the tank. While doing so, the boom of the crane was approximately an arm’s length away from the resident.

Immediately after the crane was detached from the straps and while the resident remained standing on the tank, the defendant worker started to move the crane boom to reposition it. As he did so, the resident fell approximately 2.3 metres from the top of the water tank. It is unknown whether he fell as a result of being struck by the boom of the crane or from slipping or tripping while the boom was moved in his vicinity.

After falling, the resident hit a nearby shed before impacting the concrete below. As a result of his fall, the man sustained extensive injuries requiring hospitalization, including complex fractures to his skull, injury to his spine, injury to his right knee and toe, and various hematomas, hemorrhages, and contusions on his brain.

It was alleged that the defendant should not have moved the crane boom at all, in circumstances where the resident remained on the tank and in proximity to the boom.

In sentencing the defendant worker, Magistrate Guttridge took into account the defendant’s early plea of guilty and had regard to the purpose of the Act.

In considering an appropriate penalty, His Honour emphasised that the worker’s conduct, in failing to ensure that the man was safe before repositioning the crane, had significant consequences, demonstrating that significant injuries can arise when rules are not followed. His Honour acknowledged that it is unclear whether the man was actually struck by the boom or simply fell from the tank, determining to resolve this inconsistency in the defendant’s favour. His Honour identified that, other than personal deterrence, there was a real need for general deterrence in this case, to show others that offences of this kind are serious.

In mitigation, His Honour accepted that both the defendant worker had cooperated with the investigation and had no prior history of WHS offending. It was also noted that the defendant was a man of limited financial means, with limited capacity to pay a fine, and was no longer working in a role involving operating heavy machinery.

In light of these factors and comparable decisions referred to by the prosecution and defence, His Honour imposed a fine of $7,000 along with costs and the filing fee, all of which was referred to SPER. No conviction was recorded.

OWHSP contact: enquiries@owhsp.qld.gov.au

Court Report

Date of offence
Fractured skull; spinal, knee and toe injuries; various haematomas; haemorrhages and contusions on the brain
Toogoolawah Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Stephen Guttridge
Decision date
Maximum fine available
$150,000 (1,500 penalty units)
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded