Prosecution of Workers

Worker fined in Brisbane having failed to meet his Work Health and Safety Duty of Care

Incident description

On 5 August 2014, the defendant, a boilermaker, was undertaking welding and steel grinding activities in a stairwell. He placed a canvas bag containing, pressurised spray paint cans in close proximity to the work area. The canvas bag caught alight and the spray paint cans heated and exploded in a sudden and large combustion. The defendant and two other workers who came to assist sustained burns.

The defendant was instructed in and had signed his employer’s safe work procedure. The safe work procedure identified hazards and risks associated with hot work and nominated that flammable and combustible items were not to be in the vicinity of hot work activities. The worker failed to follow the procedure.

Court result

The defendant pleaded guilty in the Holland Park Magistrates Court on 23 October 2015 to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duties and was sentenced.

The magistrate fined the defendant $2 500 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1080.70. He made a training order (s.241 of the Act) that the defendant complete a work health and safety (WHS) training course within 7 months. No conviction was recorded.

In deciding penalty, the court took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach and had cooperated with the investigation.

In reaching a decision, the magistrate acknowledged the defendant had demonstrated remorse and regret over his actions and accepted submissions by the defence that he was significantly affected emotionally by the impact of his actions on work colleagues who had been injured. He had undertaken, on his own volition, two courses of WHS training since the incident.

The magistrate also acknowledged he had entered a plea of guilty at the return of the complaint. The defendant also placed before the court his financial commitments; he was a family man with one child with his wife pregnant with a second child. He acknowledged the defendant had only a modest income and was the sole wage earner. These elements were incorporated into the penalty imposed.