A defendant held duties under s.27 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being the officer (director) of a company conducting a small equine facility for dressage and stabling. He was the sole director of the facility but had little actual involvement. It was run directly by his wife and their daughter. It employed up to 4 to 5 casual staff, including a 17 year old worker, to repair fences, feed, water and care for horses.
The defendant director pleaded guilty in the Noosa Magistrates Court on 22 December 2016 to breaching s.32 of the Act, having failed to exercise due diligence and be apprised of the activities at the workplace.
On 13 May 2015, the 17 year old worker was alone in the stable when she received a text from the wife of the director to count feed and take stock in the barn which had a mezzanine level where feed was stored. She extended an 'A' frame ladder to climb up to count horse feed and hay bales. In the process of returning to ground level, she fell 2.6m onto a concrete floor.
There were no witnesses, but workmates heard a noise, went to her assistance and called an ambulance. She sustained injury including a fractured skull, contusions to the brain, fractures to vertebra at C5, L2, L3 and L4 and abrasions. The court heard she had resumed some horse riding and was working part-time but had deferred studies.
The injured worker was a “young worker” falling under the Children and Young Workers Code of Practice 2006. Access and egress to the mezzanine floor did not have any hand rail or other fall protection. There was a risk a worker could fall from the mezzanine floor in the absence of fall protection to prevent or minimise such a risk. The director was essentially ignorant with respect to the business or undertaking.
The prosecution submitted a fine in conjunction with a s.239 court ordered undertaking would be appropriate, however the court accepted defence submissions, and fined the defendant $2,000.00 given his unique circumstances, including the fact the centre had ceased to operate and the workplace was more akin to a private residence, it was a small undertaking with little concern to profit. She ordered professional and court costs totaling $1079.40. No conviction was recorded.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Hennessey took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty. Her honour acknowledged the injured worker was well known to his family and was friends with his daughter and the defendant was remorseful to learn of her injuries. The nature of the “hobby farm” undertaking saw the defendant sentenced on that financial basis.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working at height in any industry where there is exposure to risks from a fall from a ladder specifically (or height generally), duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures; for example consider the installation of fixed ladders and guard rails where frequent access and egress at height is required.
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.
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Children and Young Workers Code of Practice 2006 (PDF, 0.42 MB)
- Arts and recreation services
- Date of offence:
- Fracture injuries to vertebrae
- Noosa Magistrates Court
- Annette Hennessey
- s.32 of the duty under s.27 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: