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Company and director fined for putting public at risk

A flooring business has been fined $35,000 and its director given a 12-month court ordered undertaking after it was found the company had failed to follow its own safe work method statement (SWMS) for a building project, putting public health at risk.

The company and the director both pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to failing in their health and safety duties and exposing people to the risk of death or serious injury.

The prosecution follows an earlier court action also highlighting the importance of following through with safety protocols. In that instance, a Toowoomba Second Range Crossing contractor was fined $40,000 even though the magistrate accepted the defendant had instituted thorough safety systems and the failures related to an isolated case involving two workers.

In the Brisbane flooring prosecution, the court heard that company workers, including the sole director, applied a floor levelling compound to a building foyer, which needed time to dry. Boards and mats were placed on the newly finished surface, creating a path along the wall from the emergency exit doorway to the centre lift in the foyer. However, the workers did not put down matting in front of lift three, the closest to the emergency exit.

Bollards and traffic cones were placed in the area but not near the emergency exit or lift three. Later that morning, two members of the public slipped and fell while crossing the floor, with one sustaining a fractured left patella.

The Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the company’s SWMS identifying slip hazards and safety controls was not followed and an exclusion zone or adequate delineated pathway, including signage, not implemented.

In sentencing, Magistrate Suzette Coates accepted the workers had made arrangements for entry to the building by tenants and the defendants did their best, albeit incompetently, to alleviate the risk, but were not successful.

Magistrate Coates acknowledged workers attempted to mitigate the risk of injury and the company had relied to some extent on the principal contractor to mitigate the risk, commenting that relying on others is dangerous when liability arises for the person performing the work.

Relatively early guilty pleas were considered when imposing the $35,000 fine for the company and the 12-month court ordered undertaking pursuant to section 239 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, with a recognisance of $5000, for the director. Court and professional costs of almost $1700 were ordered against the defendants, with no convictions recorded.

Further information

More prosecutions are at Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor website.