The defendant company operates an abattoir. It held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
As part of day to day activities, livestock is delivered in trucks for processing. In early 2017 the company agreed to take on additional processing work. To cope with increased deliveries, including livestock from triple deck trailers, modification of a livestock unloading ramp was required. A maintenance worker was directed to undertake the modifications which involved extending the length of the ramp.
On 21 February 2017, a triple deck truck arrived to unload pigs. The truck driver commenced unloading the stock. The ramp began to pivot at an attachment point in a see-saw fashion. He called for help. A worker employed for less than a month as a labourer ran to the scene and attempted to stop the pigs jumping off the raised ramp. The pigs continued to move forward and the extra weight caused the ramp to drop suddenly, entrapping the workers head between a fixed rail and cross bar positioned closest to the holding yard. After emergency treatment, he remained on life support for nine days. It was ceased and he died 2 March 2017.
On 29 November 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Maryborough 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 Terry Duroux fined the defendant $200,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1596.15. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate noted there was no risk assessment regarding the proposed modifications, no engineering or independent certification of the modified plant prior to its manufacture, installation and commissioning. The deceased worker had only recently been employed as a labourer with no experience in unloading of stock.
The worker tasked with undertaking the modifications had no formal qualifications or trade. No documentation, Australian Standards, engineering plans, Codes of Practice were provided in advance of the works. Both police forensic and WHSQ engineering reports found fundamental flaws in the design of the extended ramp.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Duroux took into account the unusually early plea of guilty- at the return of the summons, the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breaches, had fully co-operated with the investigation and shown significant remorse, including payments for travel to the deceased's extended family. He also noted the defendant is the largest employer in the North Burnett region, is a family run company with significant financial obligations as demonstrated by tendered taxation records.
Despite these mitigating factors, the Magistrate found the incident to be serious where general deterrence was an important factor in considering the penalty imposed.
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Maryborough Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Terry Duroux
- s.19(1) of the duty under s.32 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: