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April 2021

Young gym patron dies after weightlifting equipment drops on him

Young gym patron dies after weightlifting equipment drops on him

The case

WHS Queensland v Not-for-Profit Registered Charity (2020)

On 26 September 2017, a 15-year-old gym patron died as a result of injuries he sustained while using weightlifting equipment, which dropped onto his neck and pinned him to the bench.

The patron had been working out on the bench press at the Pine Rivers Police-Citizen Youth Welfare Association (PCYC), and was unsupervised.

The judgement

The Court heard that the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation into the incident found that PCYC had a policy that patrons aged between 12 to 15 years old were required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times while within the gym. However, PCYC failed to properly communicate the policy to its staff and enforce it.

PCYC pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

When considering the penalty to be imposed, Pine Rivers Magistrates Court took into account the maximum penalty of the offence being $1,5000,000 and referred to the harm suffered by the patron’s parents and friends, as well as mitigating factors such as the remedial steps undertaken by the PCYC. Pine Rivers Magistrates Court exercised its discretion not to enter a conviction, but ordered PCYC to pay a fine of $300,000.

The lessons

The primary obligation on a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure the safety of all persons, including visitors or patrons, extends to not-for-profit organisations. The duty requires a vigilant and proactive approach to ensure that safe systems are maintained. This is particularly important in the case of the health, safety and wellbeing of children.

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