The defendant company held duties under s.19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The defendant as part of its business constructed pipelines for large scale coal seam gas production. The construction included digging trenches in which to lay pipelines using large trenching machines (the plant).
On 19 July, 2013 a large item of mobile plant known as a wheel trencher was being operated digging trenches for laying pipes. A young worker engaged as a pipeline labourer, whose duties included observing the plant for obstacles or blockages whilst in operation, noticed a stick about to jam between two of the buckets in the bucket wheel. He reached in with his right hand and moved the stick out of the way. When he tried to remove his hand his shirt became tangled in the bucket wheel and a bearing roller. His hand was drawn into the moving parts and amputated.
On 4 June, 2018 the defendant pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court 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 Wendy Cull fined the defendant $80,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1586.40. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate acknowledged the defendant did have a safety management system in place however it did not address the specific risk in this case. Her Honour said that persons conducting a business or undertaking need to be aware that young workers often are anxious to please employers and can take risks. Employers need to guard against that. Her Honour noted the duty is to protect workers no matter if fit or fatigued, careful or careless, experienced or inexperienced, overconfident of their skills or simply foolish.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Cull took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a timely plea of guilty, after a declined enforceable undertaking.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the construction industry where there is exposure to risks from contact with moving parts of plant, duty holders should consider the following:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Right hand amputation
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Wendy Cull
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: