On 11 June 2020, in the Brisbane District Court, Australia’s first conviction and sentence for industrial manslaughter was handed down. The defendant, Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd, had on 3 April 2020 entered a guilty plea to one offence contrary to s34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
The conviction related to an incident in May 2019 at a wrecking yard in Rocklea, Brisbane, in which a worker suffered fatal injuries when a forklift was reversed, crushing him between the forklift and a stationary tilt-tray truck. The investigation into the incident by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and Queensland Police revealed that the business had no documented safety systems and that the driver of the forklift was unlicensed.
Guilty pleas were also entered by the company’s two directors to Category 1 charges of reckless conduct under s.31 of the Act. Each failed in their duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the corporate defendant complied with its safety obligations under the Act.
Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $3M. The directors were each convicted and sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, wholly suspended for 20 months.
This is a clear-cut case of a business not using a risk management model to identify hazards, take steps to lessen, minimise or remove the risk to workers and implement appropriate safety control measures.