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Boat builder fined $140,000 over workplace injuries


26 July 2022

A Queensland boat builder has been fined $140,000 after a worker suffered multiple wrist fractures while using a faulty press that had been reported to the company more than a year earlier.

At a hearing in the Southport Magistrates Court yesterday, the company pleaded guilty and was fined over the incident which breached Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The defendant had failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty and exposed workers to the risk of death or serious injury.

The court heard the boat builder’s plant used five manual presses to form and shape large aluminium sheets.

The Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found one press had an inoperable safety mechanism from the time it was first used in 2012.

Workers had reported this issue to their managers, and in February 2018, the company received a service report that identified the inoperable safety mechanism. However, the press was never removed from use and the company also failed to ensure the operating speed of the machine was slowed to minimise the risk of a worker being caught or crushed.

The report identified three other presses with an operable, but inadequate, safety mechanism. The safety mechanism on each of these machines did not adequately guard against the risk of a worker being caught or crushed by the jaws of the press. These presses too were not removed from service.

In September 2019, two men were using the errant press when its jaws closed on one of them causing multiple wrist fractures.

In sentencing the company, Magistrate Ron Kilner found it was an “important aggravating factor” that the defendant had ignored complaints by employees about the dangers of the press for a long time.

Magistrate Kilner found it an aggravating feature that multiple machines were involved and considered the defendant had placed profit before safety in not ensuring the machine safety mechanisms were adequate and operable. Considering the risk, he noted the defendant’s reliance on workers to “keep an eye on each other at all times” was hardly sufficient.

His Honour took into consideration the defendant implemented significant safety measures after the incident and its recordable incident rate had decreased from 32 to 2.3 incidents per 200,000-man hours. He also noted the owners had only acquired the business about a month before the incident and had limited opportunity to make the necessary changes to safety procedures before it occurred.

The company was fined $140,000 plus costs of $1600. Magistrate Kilner opted not to record a conviction, quoting the defendant’s lack of prior convictions, cooperation with authorities and efforts to minimise future accidents.

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