The defendant company held duties under s.19(2) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. It operated a steel design, fabrication and installation company.
On 30 October 2014 an experienced truck driver employed by a transport company arrived at the defendant's workplace with a semi-trailer loaded with varying lengths of steel. The defendant's workers assisted with unloading while the truck driver used a pry bar to separate lengths of steel to be slung for hoisting. The pry bar slipped and the truck driver overbalanced, falling off the trailer deck over 1 metre onto a concrete floor. He sustained a fractured coccyx and multiple bruising.
The court heard the defendant had written work procedures for loading and unloading trucks at the workplace. The risk of falling from height was not identified as a hazard. The defendant had a full time Work Health and Safety Officer whose job was to prepare and implement safe work procedures. None of the material, training or instruction identified fall from height for workers or contractors attending the site with deliveries. ;There was no policy or procedure in regards to external contractors and what, if any involvement they had with unloading.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 1 February 2017 to breaching s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Suzette Coates fined the defendant $40 000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1592.90. No conviction was recorded.
Magistrate Coates noted the defendant immediately took action in implementing more detailed and stringent policies and procedures for both its workers and others attending its workplace. These included induction of all workers, including contractors entering the site, load assessment forms, establishment of exclusion zones, traffic management plans and a blanket ban on delivery truck drivers assisting with unloading. It subsequently purchased truck gantry access platforms to control the hazard of work at height. The defendant also engaged an external safety contractor to review and oversee changes to its policies, procedures and training.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Coates took into account the defendant had not previously been convicted of any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty. It was noted that the incident itself was not as serious as some other types of fall from height as it involved a very experienced truck driver and the fall was less than 1.5 metres, although it was accepted that distance itself is not the only parameter of gauging seriousness. The Court also took into account the company had been in financial distress and recently in voluntary administration with all 70 workers made redundant. At time of sentence it was only just getting back on its feet with future plans to rehire workers.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the transport and manufacturing industry where loading and unloading of trucks takes place, there is exposure to risks from falling from height, 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 fall from height, obligation holders should consider matters raised in Managing risks of falls at workplaces Code of Practice 2011.
- Date of offence:
- Worker unconscious at scene, fractured coccyx, multiple bruising
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Suzette Coates
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(2) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $40,000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: