The defendant held duties under s.28 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a worker performing work as a veterinarian.
On 15 March 2014, the defendant was called to attend the premises where a horse was unwell. On arrival and at the request of the horse owner, the defendant started antibiotic and anti-inflammatory treatment. After completing the treatment, he left a catheter in situ and instructed the horse owner to continue treating the horse by giving medication intravenously through the catheter and also via injections. On 17 March 2014, after the horse's condition deteriorated the owners decided to euthanise. The defendant took blood samples to be tested for Hendra Virus (HeV). The owner engaged someone to bury the deceased horse, which he did by digging a hole with his excavator and then lifting her in the bucket, placing it in the hole and returning the dirt to cover it. The following day, the blood sample, nasal and rectal swabs were confirmed as positive for HeV.
The defendant pleaded guilty, was convicted but no conviction recorded in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court on 16 January 2017 to breaching s.32 of the Work health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duties. Magistrate John Smith made a s.239 order 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 $7500 to be forfeited if convicted of an offence within this period.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate acknowledged the seriousness of the disease. The public was entitled to be kept safe from diseases that can prove fatal in some cases. However, the Court also accepted references presented on the defendant's behalf and his otherwise very good professional standing in the equine community.
In deciding penalty, the Magistrate also 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.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the veterinary industry where there is exposure to risks from exposure to Hendra Virus, 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 serious illness or death from exposure to Hendra Virus, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Hendra virus – information for veterinarians
- Guidelines for Veterinarians handling potential Hendra virus infection in horses
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Bundaberg Magistrates Court
- John Smith
- s.32 of the duty under s.28 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- 12 Month court ordered undertaking as per s.239 Work Health and Safety Act 2011 with $7,500 recognizance
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: