Worker fined thousands for safety breaches
Two recent Queensland decisions reinforce the principle that all persons in a workplace have obligations for health and safety, including employees, and that failure to perform a role safely can result in an employee facing prosecution. Similar legislative provisions exist in all Australian states and territories under model laws.
In the first case, a forklift operator was loading luggage onto a cruise liner at the Portside wharf in Hamilton, Brisbane, in March 2020. While driving the forklift, the luggage cage opened, luggage fell to the ground, and the forklift became stuck. He stepped out of the forklift to retrieve the luggage.
Another forklift operator then approached him, and they agreed that he needed to reverse his forklift to recover the load. Unfortunately, he moved the forklift forward, striking the co-worker with the cage. He sustained fractures to both legs and was taken by ambulance to hospital.
The operator was charged with failing to take reasonable steps to ensure his acts did not adversely affect the health and safety of others, contrary to sections 28 and 32 of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011(Qld).
The operator, facing a maximum penalty of $150,000, was fined $3,000, and no conviction was recorded. In imposing the penalty, Magistrate Colin Strofield noted several mitigating factors, including the operator’s age, his co-operation with the investigation, and the lack of any prior convictions.
In the second case, a front-end wheel loader operator was instructed in March 2019 to fix a valve on a sand wash plant pipe. The operator allowed two workers to hop into the loader’s bucket; he then raised the bucket four metres and drove it towards the plant.
During the journey, the bucket tilted forward, with one of the workers jumping out without injury.
However, the second worker became stuck between the bucket and the plant, sustaining lacerations to his head, which required stitches.
Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin fined the operator $7,500 and legal costs of $600.
He noted that other proper machines were available and that the operator’s actions created a real risk that his co-workers could have been killed or sustained serious injury.
For queries about safety, workplace investigations, or any other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to email@example.com
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.