At a recent hearing in the Southport Magistrates Court, a Gold Coast jumping castle business was fined $50,000 for failing to comply with its primary health and safety duty, exposing workers to a risk of serious injury or death.
The small business rented jumping castles on the Gold Coast and employed casual workers to drop off, set up and collect the amusement devices.
At the start of each shift, the workers collected a truck as well as a ‘run sheet’ containing details of the day’s deliveries or pick-ups. The trucks were pre-packed by a supervisor and not checked by the workers prior to their shift.
On the job training consisted of a buddy system, where a less experienced worker would be paired with a more experienced worker for a day or so and shown what to do. The defendant company had no formal safety training in place for its workers and no specific training in regard to the use of, or transporting of, generators which were used when mains power wasn’t available.
On 10 February 2018, three casual workers were delivering the last jumping castle for the day to a customer at Tallebudgera. At the time, all three men had been employed by the defendant for six months or less. In fact, for one worker, it was his first day.
Arriving on site, the men opened the truck’s back doors and noticed petrol fumes. The generator, which hadn’t been secured at all, was on its side with a puddle of petrol on the floor.
Two of the workers climbed into the back of the truck to retrieve the generator and clean up the petrol. The workers noticed the petrol cap was lose and there was a battery hanging off the side of the generator by a wire. When one man was putting the battery back in place, the wires sparked, and an explosion occurred. There was no fire safety equipment on the truck and the two men suffered significant burn injuries.
A QPS fire scene examination found the generator to be the most probable ignition source leading to the explosion and fire, noting the situation present in the rear of the truck caused all three components of the fire triangle to be present (oxygen, fuel source and ignition source). Expert evidence stated the generator should’ve been secured whilst being transported.
In sentencing, Magistrate Mark Howden found the incident arose from a combination of events, including the generator not being secured, a lack of training and the fact there was no safety equipment on the truck. Magistrate Howden noted that securing the generator would’ve prevented the incident and that simple procedure wouldn’t have been overly burdensome for the defendant.
His Honour took into account it was a small business and the effect the penalty would have on it, the impact of COVID-19 (which included a halved turnover and far less employees) and limited financial assistance given to the two injured workers by the defendant.
Magistrate Howden considered, as an important aspect for specific deterrence, a significant change in management processes and procedures post incident. This included the purchase
of new generators fitted with fire safety equipment, formal training for workers on fire safety and generator use, and the revamping of the buddy system to include a supervisor signing off on training.
His Honour also noted the need for general deterrence, particularly in circumstances where the incident could have been easily avoided.
In sentencing, Magistrate Howden had regard to the defendant’s otherwise good criminal history and that there had been no issues since the incident.
The company was convicted of one charge under sections 32 and 19 (1) of the Work Health and safety Act 2011, fined $50,000 and ordered to pay professional and court costs of almost $4,100.
No conviction was recorded.
More prosecutions are at owhsp.qld.gov.au