The defendant held duties under s.27(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being an officer of a person conducting a business or undertaking. The performed work was veterinary treatment of horses, including after hours and on site consultations.
Between 30 May 2014 and 3 June 2014, the defendant was engaged by a member of the public to provide veterinary and diagnostic services, including testing for Hendra Virus (HeV) a potentially fatal zoonotic disease. The defendant supplied four syringes and medication to the horse owner with instructions to administer the treatment. The horse owner undertook administering this medication and in doing so did not follow adequate infection control procedures. In providing the syringes and medication without the appropriate personal protective equipment or adequate instruction for infection control procedures, the defendant exposed her client to risk of accidental inoculation of HeV. The horse subsequently tested positive to HeV and was euthanised.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court on 26 September, 2016 to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet her work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate C Callaghan ordered professional and court costs totaling $1082.40. He also made an order under s.239 of the Act that the defendant not offend against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for a period of 12 months, with a recognisance in the sum of $10,000 to be forfeited if convicted of such an offence within this period. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate took into account that the duty imposed is one that required the defendant to ensure adequate systems were in place for the business of which she was an officer. Magistrate Callaghan noted that the defendant had revised business procedures to ensure that no horse is to be treated by an owner in circumstances that HeV was suspected and in regard to which exclusionary testing was being undertaken.
The magistrate considered a number of character references tendered and the defendant's extensive work history as a veterinarian; including her appointment as the vet for the Australian Dressage and Para-Olympic equestrian teams. The magistrate acknowledged that the horse owner did not contract HeV as a consequence of exposure.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Callaghan took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a timely plea of guilty.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the agriculture industry where there is exposure to risks of contracting HeV from close contact with a infected horse or a needle stick injury from HeV infected blood, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of exposure to HeV, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Exposure to Hendra Virus
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Mr Christopher J Callaghan
- s.32 of the duty under s.27 of the Work Health Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $10,000 12 month court ordered undertaking
- Maximum Penalty:
- $300, 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: