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January 2020

Defects in equipment cost company $50,000

Defects in equipment cost company $50,000

WHS Queensland vs Tranzblast Coating Services (June 2018)

Facts

In a second case involving Tranzblast’s 8-tonne crane, following the fatality discussed in the Robert Poida case, this crane was inspected and found to have multiple defects, including defective wheel and park brakes, non-operational headlights, a non-operational warning light and a non-operational horn. While the defects were not found to have caused the fatality, Tranzblast was nevertheless prosecuted for the defective state of the crane.

Tranzblast had systems in place for the maintenance of equipment, including an on-site mechanic and workshop. However, the crane in question had not been repaired for a long time.

Judgment

Tranzblast pleaded guilty to breaching s 33 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), and was fined $50,000, and ordered to pay $1,092.55 in costs. No conviction was recorded.

The Ipswich Magistrates Court noted that the risk from operating a crane with defective components, particularly brakes, was real and obvious, and there was a need for adequate systems of maintenance. While acknowledging that the defects were not immediately obvious without inspection, the Court found that regular maintenance would have been easy to implement, given the existence of the on-site mechanic and workshop.

Lessons

This case demonstrates the importance of regular maintenance of plant and machinery. Even in circumstances where the defects do not cause injury or death, a company may be prosecuted for failing to comply with its health and safety duties by reason of its failure to maintain safe plant and machinery.

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