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Care worker fined $15,000 over pain and injury to vulnerable patient


16 September 2021

A Bundaberg residential care worker has been fined $15,000 over a workplace safety incident in which a high needs patient was left in extreme pain after falling out of bed.

The worker this week pleaded guilty in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court to failing to meet his duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to ensure he did not adversely affect the health of others, which exposed someone to a risk of death or serious injury.

The court heard that on 9 October 2018 he was working alone in the facility looking after three high needs residents entirely dependent on carers. Earlier in the afternoon, the defendant lowered the siderails of the bed of a resident who couldn’t speak or communicate freely.

Workers had been told the siderails were to be in the raised position unless there were activities that required the rails being lowered.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the defendant that night found the resident on the floor. The bed siderails were down and the resident had fallen one metre from his bed. The worker picked up the resident, put him back in bed and raised the siderails before finishing his shift. He did not report the incident or advise the on-coming shift worker of it.

The morning shift worker was concerned for the agitated resident who was in extreme pain, calling an ambulance and asking the defendant if something had happened. The defendant then revealed the incident involving the resident, who suffered pelvic and leg fractures.

Magistrate Andrew Moloney heard the resident had suffered significantly as a result of the defendant not reporting the matter and not seeking medical treatment. Magistrate Moloney said he did not know why the defendant did not seek medical assistance, accepting the worker was very experienced and would have known this was the appropriate action to take.

His Honour acknowledged the employer had safe systems of work in place, but the defendant failed to follow these, noting the resident was non-verbal, and because of this, was at a significant disadvantage being not able to convey he was injured and in pain.

The errant care worker was fined $15,000 and court costs of just over $1,100. No conviction was recorded. In handing down his decision, Magistrate Moloney took into account numerous character references provided by the defendant and his difficult financial circumstances as well as general deterrence and denunciation of the carer’s conduct because of the seriousness of the breach.

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