The defendant company held duties under s.19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 It was owned by husband and wife directors who both worked in the business. It operated a food and catering business, intermittently hiring casual workers to assist with contracted events.
On 8 January 2018 two young casual workers were tasked with cleaning the kitchen floor. They used Tornado tile cleaner, a hose and scrubbing broom. One worker felt a sting to his right foot. He continued working. A couple of hours later he took his socks and shoes off and noticed a mark the size of “about three fifty cent pieces”
The defendant was contacted, and the worker was advised to run his foot under cold running water for about 20 minutes. Over the coming days he was referred to a specialist and ultimately skin grafting to his foot. The wound later became infected. The worker was in his senior year of school and was unable to attend for two weeks. His injuries eventually healed, but he was left with a scar.
The worker commenced work as a casual kitchen hand two days prior to the incident. Although shown how to undertake basic duties by a director of the defendant company, he was not formally inducted.
Investigation found the defendant owned and used the Tornado cleaning product. It is classified as hazardous and corrosive to skin. The safety data warns that exposure can cause irreversible damage to skin and a corrosive response has been observed in animals within 1 hour of no more than 3 minutes exposure. While the defendant had material safety data sheets at the workplace, provided gloves and goggles for use as personal protective equipment and had some policies and procedures which included instructions for workers to wear closed in leather/rubber style boots, most casuals wore black trainers or sneakers.
On this occasion another casual worker, also a high school student, had been instructed on how to properly dilute the Tornado before use and was buddied with the injured worker to undertake the task. They hosed down the work area and scattered undiluted Tornado over the floor before cleaning. The co-worker had, on previous occasions, not followed the correct procedure for diluting the chemical.
On 7 August 2019, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Southport 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 Mack fined the defendant $50,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1,596.15. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
The defendant pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work, failing to safely use and handle hazardous chemicals including the provision of adequate PPE. It also failed to adequately train and supervise its workers.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Mack took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty. The court had received a statement from the parents of the injured worker that was very supportive of the defendant and its post incident actions. Tax records were also tendered demonstrating the defendant was a small business with modest income.
- Accommodation and food services
- Date of offence:
- Chemical burn to foot
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Mack
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $50,000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: