On 14 September 2020, an asbestos demolition worker pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Southport Magistrates Court for providing false and misleading information to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (‘WHSQ’) in contravention of section 268(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’). The defendant was fined $500 and no conviction was recorded.

The defendant was a worker engaged by an asbestos removal company. He attended an address in Mermaid Waters on 8 February 2019 to remove tiles from the house’s roof in preparation for its demolition. The defendant was operating the excavator at the site and deliberately caused the excavator’s bucket to damage the rear veranda ceiling of the house. Unbeknownst to the defendant, the ceiling contained asbestos containing material (ACM). A neighbour had filmed the defendant operating the excavator, and subsequently intervened to stop the workers from continuing with the works. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (‘WHSQ’) inspectors attended and commenced an investigation.

In the course of that investigation, WHSQ conducted a compelled interview with the defendant pursuant to section 171 of the Act. During the interview, the defendant lied and indicated that he had damaged the rear of the house accidentally when operating the excavator.

In sentencing, Magistrate Gary Finger had regard to the defendant’s early guilty plea. His Honour indicated that the offence arose as a result of the defendant’s failure to take the opportunity to tell the truth and confirmed that the defendant had “learned the hard way” from this experience. The defendant was fined $500 and ordered to pay $99.70 in costs for the court filing fee. Both amounts were referred to the State Penalties and Enforcement Register (SPER) for payment.

The independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor, Mr Aaron Guilfoyle, said the prosecution highlighted the importance of complying with directions in the course of investigations by WHSQ.

“WHSQ as a regulator plays a vital role in investigating breaches of Queensland workplace laws”, said Mr Guilfoyle.

“Queensland business and their workers have an obligation to comply with lawful directions under the Act”

“Those who fail to comply and mislead inspectors risk being prosecuted.”

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

Court Report

General
Industry
Construction - asbestos
Date of offence
Injury
Nil
Court
Southport Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Gary Finger
Decision date
Legislation

Section 268(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
$500 fine
Maximum fine available
$10,000
Professional and legal costs
Nil
Court costs
$99.70
In default period
Referred to SPER
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded
No