The defendant company held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. It owned and operated a service station, and as part of the business sold prepared hot and cold food.
On 21 June 2017 a 22-year-old kitchen hand/cook sustained burns to approximately 11-15% of her body when a fryer used for cooking chicken pieces overbalanced.
The worker had been employed for approximately 6 years and was undertaking a regular task of filtering oil from the portable fryers positioned on the benchtop in the commercial kitchen. In order to attach an L framed metal pipe used for drainage, the fryers needed to be moved forward toward the edge of the bench. She had almost finished attaching the drainage pipe when one of the legs of the fryer overreached, causing it to overbalance and land on the kitchen floor. The hot oil splashed onto the worker.
First aid was rendered, and the worker was taken to hospital, later being transferred to Royal Brisbane Hospital Burns Unit. She sustained partial and deep thickness burns to her forearms left and right thighs, lower legs and abdomen. She required skin grafts and was in hospital for about 2 and half weeks.
The Work Health and Safety investigation revealed that upon commencement, each worker received an induction and some ongoing training and supervision by more experienced workers. Management monitored progress until satisfied the worker was competent. The fryer involved was one of two inherited from another business operated by an associated company. They were bench top design and held 20 litres of oil.
Workers were issued with an apron and hat, as part of the uniform but no other personal protective clothing or equipment. Management had instructed workers to turn the fryers off for about 15 minutes before commencing filtering or cleaning. Neither the manager nor the staff had been shown or were aware of an instruction manual/operation procedure for the fryer. Instructions within the manual included “Turn off deep dryer at power point, allow to cool down, do not drain when temperature is above 40 degrees, it only takes 6/7 minutes to heat up but can take 6/7 hours to cool down”. Following the incident, the deep fryers were recessed into the bench at a cost of $850.
On18 July 2019 the defendant pleaded guilty in the Cairns 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 Pinder fined the defendant $65,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1596.15. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
His Honour accepted there were no written policies and procedures for the task of decanting hot oil. Verbal instructions and supervision by more experienced staff were inadequate given the risk of serious injury from the hazard of decanting hot oil. The worker's injuries were significant. General deterrence was an important feature in sentencing for this offence.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Pinder took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breaches, co-operated with the investigation including records of interview and provision of CCTV footage of the incident and entered an early plea of guilty. The Court was provided with numerous character references from former employees who described the company's attention to work health and safety issues as excellent and vigilant.
The business was family run operating for over 60 years. The current Director had taken over the running of the business from his parents. The defendant has a significant footprint within the local community, and has for a number for years voluntarily contributed financially and otherwise to its community.
- Accommodation and food services
- Date of offence:
- Partial and deep thickness burns
- Magistrate Pinder
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $65,000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: