The defendant held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a trustee for a business conducting pineapple farming. The defendant was a sole trader in partnership with his wife and son. He had operational control and management of the day to day activities of the business with his son transitioning into this role as part of a succession plan.
A worker fell in excess of 3.2 metres onto a concrete floor from an unrestrained timber pineapple crate being used at height as an elevated work platform. The worker was assisting the defendant prepare a shed for re-roofing following damage caused by cyclone Marcia. Work of this kind was not typically performed.
The work included welding to the top of the shed's steel frame and fixing of Z purlins. Each of the 34 purlins to be installed measured 6 metres long and weighed 30 kg. The defendant obtained a Manitou forklift and pineapple bin and directed the worker to work at height. The crate was unsecured and rested on the tynes of the forklift. Two purlins caught each other and the worker attempted to separate them. They fell, causing the pineapple bin to tip laterally throwing the worker to the floor below. The pineapple bin, measuring 2.1 metres long and 1.2 metres wide landed on top of him.
The worker sustained injuries which included several fractures to his arms and face. He was hospitalised for 7 weeks and underwent 4 surgical procedures and may require further surgery. The Workplace Health and Safety investigation found little induction or safety training was undertaken with the worker. No risk assessment, safe work method statement or safe work procedure was implemented. Prior to work commencing the worker had suggested another option of using pallet crates where the tynes could be placed between the timbers potentially making the platform more stable, but this was not adopted
On 2 February, 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 his work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Jeffrey Clarke fined the defendant $20,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $846.15. He also made a s.239 order that the defendant not offend against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for a period of 12 months, with a recognisance in the sum of $15,000 to be forfeited if convicted of an offence within this period. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate noted the obligation was on the person conducting the business to ensure a safe system of work. He noted that farming and rural businesses have some inherent dangers due to the nature and variety of the work undertaken. Working at heights poses obvious risks and if safety systems are deficient or absent and incidents occur, then general deterrence is important.
His Honour took into account the farming business had been operating for over 40 years without any breaches. The very early plea was noted together with 'extraordinary' post incident remorse. This included topping up worker's income in addition to worker's comp payments, payment of airfares for wife to accompany worker for surgery in Brisbane, loan of a motor vehicle and an offer to redeploy worker to lighter duties post incident in continued employment. The business also implemented significant safety systems post incident and co-operated with the investigation.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the agricultural industry where there is exposure to risks from fall 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 the selection of suitable plant and fall arrest systems together with adequate training and monitoring of workers use of same.
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Various fractures injuries
- Rockhampton Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Jeffrey Clarke
- s.32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $20,000 fine plus a 12 Month court ordered undertaking as per s.239 Work Health and Safety Act 2011 with $15,000 recognisance
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: