The defendant company held duties under s.19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. As part of its business it constructed pipelines for large scale coal seam gas production. The construction included using trenching machines to dig trenches in which to lay pipelines.
On 19 July 2013 a large item of mobile plant known as a bucket wheel trencher was being operated to dig a trench to lay gas 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 entangled in the bucket wheel and a bearing roller. His hand was drawn into the moving parts and amputated at the wrist joint.
On 3 December 2018 the defendant pleaded guilty in the Rockhampton 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 Jeffrey Clarke fined the defendant $80,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $2995.80. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate acknowledged the defendant had a safety management system in place, however it did not address the specific risk in this case.The court heard the supervision and training of the worker was inadequate, and was not what was detailed in the New Employee Development Program. He was not provided with a mentor and was unsupervised at the time of the incident. His Honour stated that young workers are entitled to a higher level of supervision, and this was not provided in this instance.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Clarke considered the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, despite the risks and scope of the company operations. The defendant co-operated with the investigation, and entered a timely plea of guilty after a declined enforceable undertaking.Other mitigating factors acknowledged by his Honour was the contrition and the acceptance of wrong doing and the extensive post incident support provided to the injured worker. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded due to the impact that it would have on the ability to secure future contracts and the Magistrate's satisfaction that there would not be a repetition of the conduct.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the farming industry where there is exposure to risks from electrocution, duty holders should consider the following:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Managing the Risk 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, 1.02 MB)
- Guide to machinery and equipment safety (PDF, 1.46 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Right hand amputation
- Rockhampton Magistrates Court
- Jeffrey Clarke
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: