The defendant company held duties under s. 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a person conducting a business or undertaking, and was contracted by the Queensland Government to carry out external painting works on residential properties.
Painting was required on fascia above a veranda extension. A worker employed by the defendant, placed a 3 foot ladder on a trestle plank and climbed onto the roof of the veranda extension. He began painting while lying on the roof of the veranda extension, with no edge protection, guarding or other control measure in place. The worker lost his balance and rolled off the edge falling to the ground, a distance of approximately 4.8 meters. He sustained a fractured right acetabulum (hip socket) and a right avulsion fracture of the triquetrum (fractured wrist).
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court on 16 September 2016 to breaching s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Peter Smid fined the defendant $30,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $1082.70. The magistrate also made a court ordered undertaking under s.239 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, that the defendant not offend against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for a period of two years, with a recognisance in the sum of $20,000 to be forfeited if convicted of such an offence within this period. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision Magistrate Smid recognised that the injured worker was experienced, however the prosecution submitted it was the court's primary task to consider the systems the defendant had in place, as well as the fact that the director was beside the worker when he accessed the roof in the way he did.
In passing sentence Magistrate Smid acknowledged this was a case where an unfortunate shortcut was taken, and allowed to be taken, to perform a small job. The defendant was a small family business and the downturn in North Queensland's local economy had resulted in a considerable reduction in the company's income.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Smid recognised the need for deterrence and took into account the defendant had entered a timely plea of guilty, had no previous conviction and the director had undertaken training courses in workplace health and safety.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the commercial painting industry where there is exposure to risks from fall from heights, 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 the 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. The How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) provides further guidance on hazard identification and risk management.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of fall from heights, obligation holders should also consider the hierarchy of control measures to manage the risk of falls as detailed in the Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021 (PDF, 3.9 MB).
- Date of offence:
- Fractured right acetabulum (hip socket) and a right avulsion fracture of the triquetrum (fractured wrist)
- Townsville Magistrates Court
- Peter Smid
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Fined $30,000 plus a two year court ordered undertaking with a $20,000 surety
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: