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Townsville business and director fined over trailer collapse in spray painting booth


26 February 2024

A steel fabrication business and a director have been fined a total of $92,500 in the Townsville Magistrate court for a workplace incident involving a trailer collapsing while a worker was prepping it in an onsite spray-painting booth.

The business failed in its duty and a company director failed to exercise due diligence by exposing a worker to a risk of death or serious injury.

In June 2022, the director (also the manager) was assisting a worker to prepare one of three onsite spray-painting booths to spray a large newly fabricated truck trailer. The preparation process involved using a forklift to move various items around the area, cleaning/dusting the equipment, and prepping and securing the items to be painted on steel stands within the booths.

Before the work began, the manager was using a forklift to lift the trailer and relocate it inside the spray booth. Once inside the booth, the manager centrally located the trailer by lowering it to two steel support stands.

The worker assisting the manager moved a 60-litre drum alongside the right-hand side of the trailer as a platform to reach the upper parts of the trailer. Once in place, the worker hoisted himself on top of the drum by grasping onto the side rail of the trailer however the trailer toppled and fell towards the worker causing significant fracture injuries to his head.

The Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation uncovered that the 800-900kg truck tray was unstable, particularly to sideways forces, as it was heavier on one side.

The presiding Magistrate Susan Warrington observed that use of only two stands to support the large truck trailer was inadequate, as was the use of the drum as a work platform to carry out working at height.

Her Honour noted the injured worker was not trained in working at heights, though the company had some procedures relating to this activity and statements revealed that the drum had been used on other occasions to perform similar works.

Her Honour accepted the findings that the use of a drum for this purpose ought to have been prohibited and that the trailer should have been supported with either more stands, or other large stands to ensure it was stable.

In imposing the penalty, her Honour noted that the director oversaw the work and placed the trailer on the (inadequate) stands, resulting in significant injuries to the injured person.

The magistrate accepted there had been a timely plea of guilty, cooperation and that the defendant had expressed remorse for the incident occurrence and that there were no previous convictions.

The company was fined $85,000 plus $1101.40 costs and the director $7,500 plus costs. No conviction was recorded.

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