On the 20 February 2015, a young worker (aged 17) was siphoning unwanted petrol from a fuel tank inside the hull of boat at a repair workshop where he worked. He used a 12 volt battery with exposed terminals to energise the pump and placed the fuel in exposed pots, pans and plastic containers. As a result of spilt petrol, the immediate atmosphere surrounding the worker ignited when he disconnected the positive and negative terminals. He sustained burns to 10 per cent of his body.
At the return of the summons in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on 10 December 2015, the defendant pleaded guilty to breaching s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and was sentenced.
Magistrate Ms Annette Hennessey fined the defendant $20 000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1000. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the magistrate took into account several significant mitigating factors including the absolute timeliness of the plea, the financial circumstances of the defendant and its director, and that the worker is still gainfully employed at the workplace. Other significant factors included that the hazard has since been engineered out by using foot pumps and the level of remorse shown by the defendant. Essentially, the young worker was described as 'part of the family' because of comparable ages between the director's own child and other personal factors.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Hennessey acknowledged the seriousness of the incident, the need to protect young workers and the importance of properly minimising the risk (even in circumstances where the task was familiar to the injured worker). She also took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach and cooperated with the investigation.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of explosions, obligation holders should consider relevant supervision, exclusions and engineering controls in addition to ensuring qualifications of the workers exist or are up to date and valid.
- Retail trade
- Date of offence:
- Burn injuries to face and body
- Maroochydore Magistrates Court
- Ms Annette Hennessey
- s. 32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $20 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $1 500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: