The defendant company held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a person conducting a business or undertaking, operating a commercial dairy. At the time of sentence it employed more than 40 workers, and had been in business for more than 16 years.
Three workers were manually transporting a mobile cream vat containing approximately 170 litres of cream from the dry store into the processing room. The vat was being moved on four castor wheels and had two moving handles positioned on the legs of the plant to assist in steering it around the workplace. The movement of the vat from the dry store to the processing room was a regular occurrence (usually moved twice during a shift).
While in the course of being moved, the vat's castor wheels became stuck on a steel grill at the entrance of the processing room. Ordinarily, a steel checker plate was placed over the steel grill to assist in manipulating the plant over the grill. The workers tried to move the plant but were unsuccessful. One of the workers, a 20 year old female casual, looked for the steel checker plate but was unable to locate it. She then returned to where the vat was stuck and attempted to pull and move it off the grill by herself. The vat toppled over on top of her.
The worker received serious injuries including a fracture to her sacrum, spine and a broken pelvis. She had 6-8 months off work and has now returned to her position. At time of sentence, she still had pain and numbness in an area of her leg.
WHSQ commenced an investigation on the day of the incident. It found that the injured worker had received inadequate training or instructions in relation to moving the mobile cream vat and did not receive instructions on what to do if the vat became stuck. The investigation found that only one stainless steel plate was kept at the workplace and at the time of the incident it was being used on another job. A risk assessment was not completed concerning the risk of toppling vats when moving cream at the workplace in circumstances where “the legs were too high on it” and where the cream vat had been stuck on the grill in the past. There were control measures which could have been easily implemented and post incident the defendant made significant changes in relation to this task which included modifying the plant.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on 9 June 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 Annette Hennessey fined the defendant $50,000. No conviction was recorded.
Her Honour found there was some training given to the injured worker, however it was rudimentary and basic. Her Honour found that the systems in place were inadequate.
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.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry where there is exposure to risks, duty holders should consider the following:
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- E219951 - Company
- Date of offence:
- Fracture to sacrum and spine, and broken pelvis
- Maroochydore Magistrates Court
- Annette Hennessey
- s.32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Fined $50,000
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: