Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd (BAR) was convicted in the District Court of Queensland of industrial manslaughter for causing the death of a worker, who was struck by a forklift.

The business operated by BAR included the purchase of used motor vehicles for resale, recycling and parts.

On 17 May 2019, a worker engaged by BAR was struck by a forklift which was being reversed by another worker.

On 25 May 2019, the employee died from the injuries he sustained. The incident was captured by closed circuit cameras.

On 21 May 2019, Queensland Police notified Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) of the incident. Police and WHSQ investigators attended the workplace the same day to commence an investigation.

The investigation revealed that BAR had no safety systems in place. In particular, there was no traffic management plan at the worksite, across which a number of forklifts operated constantly in close proximity to workers and members of the public. The investigation also disclosed that the driver of the forklift that struck the employee did not hold a high-risk work licence to operate a forklift, and that BAR made no sufficient enquiries to confirm whether he held one. The driver was inexperienced and there was no sufficient assessment of his competency to operate a forklift. BAR was charged with industrial manslaughter under section 34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (WHS Act).

On 11 June 2020, the District Court of Queensland concluded that the conduct of BAR caused the death of the employee, because it failed to control the interaction of workers and mobile plant at the workplace, failed to effectively separate workers and mobile plant, and failed to effectively supervise workers and operators of moving plant, and imposed a fine of $3 million on BAR. The two directors of BAR each received a sentence of 10 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 20 months, due to a number of mitigating factors.

This decision highlights the seriousness of having adequate safety systems in place. If you would like more information about workplace health and safety in your business, please contact Ai Group’s Workplace Advice Service on 1300 55 66 77.

Alternatively, if you would like advice about the workplace health and safety obligations and criminal penalties that may arise in your state, please contact your local employment, workplace and industrial lawyer in Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Wollongong, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, or contact Ai Group Workplace Lawyers here.

Decision: R v Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd & Ors [2020] QDC 113 (11 June 2020)

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