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Details of successful prosecution against E222153

Incident description

The defendant company held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. It owned and operated an indoor pistol firing range. In January 2013 it employed a 34-year-old worker as range supervisor, his job included supervising shooting activities, range cleaning and manual handling of lead ammunition.

In November 2015 the worker attended his GP complaining of symptoms of a 'foggy' head, metallic taste in his mouth and some paraesthesia in his hands and feet. A blood test revealed lead poisoning, his blood reading being 63.0 ug/dL, almost 13 times the acceptable range.

He was admitted to hospital and underwent chelation (administration of IV medications which bind to the metal and are eventually excreted) and continued to be treated for excessive lead levels for some period afterward. He has not returned to work and has commenced on the disability pension, having some neurological and physical disabilities. Medical records indicate the worker absorbed lead via the respiratory tract from his duties involving supervision of shooters rapidly firing multiple lead projectile rounds. There was also a likely uptake of lead during cleaning sessions and retrieval of spent lead projectiles.

Court result

On the 17 July 2018, the defendant company pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and was sentenced. The period of offending spanning almost three years whereby the worker inhaled lead dust when cleaning and when in close proximity to live firing. PPE was available and used sporadically. No blood monitoring in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 had occurred.

Magistrate Payne fined the defendant $75,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $2,092.55. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.

In reaching a decision, the Magistrate noted the worker had a long history of working with ammunition and recreational shooting. She accepted the offence was at the middle in regard to gravamen and noted general deterrence was an important factor. Due to substantial post incident measures, which included independent hazard assessment, upgrades to policies and procedures and modifications in cleaning techniques, specific deterrence was a lesser priority.

She accepted that there are relatively few indoor pistol ranges throughout South East Queensland and as a result of this case, word had spread throughout the industry leading to safety improvements.

In deciding penalty, Magistrate Payne took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, pleaded guilty and the specific financial position of the company. The defendant had a single director and at the time of sentence, owing to a loss of a lucrative contract, had only one other employee. Based on submissions and recent taxation records she accepted that the defendant's financial position and capacity to pay had been substantially eroded. She also accepted that changes in management practices, its financial makeup and otherwise good corporate record moderated the fine to be imposed.

Considerations for prevention

(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)

When working in the recreational services industry where there is exposure to risks from lead, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.

In deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of illness from exposure to lead, duty holders should consider:

  • the frequency and type of contact a worker may have with the hazard;
  • undertaking adequate risk assessments regarding the health risks from exposure to lead;
  • ensuring preliminary and ongoing biological monitoring of workers exposed to lead in the workplace;
  • adequate information, training and supervision of workers exposed to lead;
  • Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  • Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

Details

Industry:
Arts and recreation services
Defendant:
E222153
Date of offence:
01/01/2013
Injury:
Severe lead poisoning
Court
Brisbane Magistrates Court
Magistrate:
Magistrate Jacqui Payne
Legislation:
s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
Decision date:
17/07/2018
Penalty:
$75,000 fine
Maximum Penalty:
$1,500,000
Conviction recorded:
No
CIS event number:
E222153