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January 2020

Lack of training results in $100K penalty

Lack of training results in $100K penalty

WHS Queensland v Leucaena Chop Pty Ltd (May 2018)

Facts

Leucaena Chop Pty Ltd (Company) provided tree harvesting services in the greater Rockhampton region. On 15 December 2015, the Company was engaged to harvest trees on a property with one of its modified cane fertiliser spreading machines.

A short-term casual employee of the Company was operating the machine in the paddock when it became bogged. The employee phoned the property owner and asked for help to free the machine.

The property owner drove his tractor to the bogged machine and attempted to tow the machine out of the bog with a chain attachment. The machine remained bogged, so the employee attached a snatch strap between the two vehicles.

The employee attached the snatch strap to the wrong connection point on the tractor and did not attach anti-recoil safety straps.

When the property owner attempted to free the machine with the snatch strap, the tow hitch of the machine broke off and was slung at great force through the back window of the tractor, striking the back of seat that the property owner was sitting in.

He was thrown forward off his seat and suffered severe injuries.

Judgment

The Company pleaded guilty to a Category 2 breach of its primary duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in exposing an individual to a risk of serious injury. Magistrate Cameron Press of the Rockhampton Magistrates Court fined the Company $104,000 and ordered it to pay costs of around $1,600.

Lessons

This case demonstrates that employers must train employees, including short-term casual employees as was the case here, on all potential equipment that may be used on a worksite. This accident was preventable, but the employee did not know how to correctly attach a snatch strap or the anti-recoil straps.

Further, it is a reminder that an employer has a duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to ensure the safety of all individuals on a worksite, not just employees.

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