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Cairns business fined after apprentice suffered serious injury

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A Cairns sand and gravel business has been fined $125,000 after one of its apprentices suffered a serious work injury last year.

After pleading guilty, the company was sentenced in the Cairns Magistrates Court under Section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker, exposing an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.

On 22 May 2017, a fourth year apprentice diesel fitter employed by the business and another apprentice were working on an electrical fault in the engine of a backhoe under the supervision of an experienced fitter/mechanic.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the backhoe was in poor mechanical condition, the rear cabin window missing, and the roll over protection was badly rusted.

At the time of the incident, the experienced mechanic was under the backhoe, while the apprentice was in the cabin. Without informing his supervisor, the apprentice stepped out of the vehicle and stood behind the cabin. The supervisor then attempted to jump start the engine by shorting the motor solenoid with a screwdriver.

While the supervisor was doing this, the apprentice was instructed to turn the ignition switch, which he did by leaning in through the frame where the rear window is usually positioned. When the engine started, the hydraulic arm of the hoe (located at the rear of the vehicle) slewed to the left, pinning the young man’s leg between the boom and the body of the vehicle.

The apprentice suffered severe leg injuries requiring amputation of the left leg below the knee. He continues to experience ongoing medical complications and psychological injury.

At the sentence hearing last Friday, Magistrate Kevin Priestley rejected a defence submission that the injuries wouldn’t have been sustained if the young worker hadn’t been standing where he was.

Magistrate Priestley found the backhoe was in such poor condition it should not have been in service at all, and that was the sole cause of the incident.

His Honour took into account it was the defendant’s first offence. He also noted the defendant had co-operated with the investigation, entered any early guilty plea, expressed remorse, and was generally a good corporate citizen.

The Cairns-based company was fined $125,000 and ordered to pay professional and court costs of almost $1,600. No conviction was recorded.

More information on industrial prosecutions is at


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Last updated
25 September 2018