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Not doing routine maintenance has fatal consequences

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A waste recycling business which failed to do routine maintenance on an excavator and cost a worker his life has been fined $200,000 in the Richlands Magistrates Court.

The company pleaded guilty to a Category two offence under the WHS Act in which it exposed an employee to risk of serious injury or death.

This follows an incident on 24 February 2015 when a worker was killed after being struck by an object whilst using an excavator to load demolition building waste into a truck at a site in Richlands. An item from the scrap metal he was loading hit him in the head.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the material was able to enter the operator's cabin because of defects such as missing windows and a door which couldn’t be closed.

To make matters worse, the managing director was aware of two prior similar incidents involving the company's plant machinery and knew about the defects on the excavator in question.

"Sadly, he chose to do nothing about it and an employee paid the ultimate price," Workplace Health and Safety Queensland head Dr Simon Blackwood said.

"Not matter what, the golden rule is those operating a business must provide safe working environments. Every worker deserves to go home to family at the end of the day or shift."

At a sentence hearing on 27 July 2017, Magistrate Aaron Simpson accepted the company had a WHS system in place, but it wasn't followed. His Honour noted that with the prior incidents the managing director would have been aware objects could enter the cabin, but because no one was injured in those near misses, he didn't realise just how dangerous it was and a fatality was possible.

"This tragedy occurred as a result of routine maintenance not being done," Dr Blackwood said.

"There were warning signs, but they were simply ignored. That's just not good enough."

Magistrate Simpson agreed, stating compliance with WHS laws is not an option, and that if there is a break, significant penalties would be imposed.

His Honour fined the company $200,000, plus court costs of almost $1,100. No conviction was recorded against the company. The director was given an undertaking with a recognisance of $50,000. Again, no conviction was recorded, but should the defendant offend under the WHS Act in the next two years he would be liable for the $50,000.

For more information on work health and safety prosecutions, visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au or call 1300 362 128.

Media contact: OIR Media 0478 33 22 00 or oirmedia@oir.qld.gov.au

Last updated
31 July 2017