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Director Sentenced for Recklessly Ignoring WHS Complaints


A Queensland company and its Director were charged with breaching section 31 (“reckless conduct – category 1”) of the State Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after a worker fell into a 1.9 metre deep trench and sustained severe injuries.  The same obligation is also imposed under the ACT’s WHS Act.

The company was engaged to lay blocks at a construction site that had a very steep incline with several excavations. The excavations included a 1.9 metre-deep unbarricaded trench that contained an uncapped vertical starter bar alongside a narrow earthen pathway. A worker of the company was travelling up the path when part of it gave way and he fell into the 1.9m deep excavation and was impaled by an uncapped starter bar. The worker sustained severe injuries to his groin and stomach.

The block laying company was convicted and fined $300,000. The Director of the company was sentenced to 4 months in prison, wholly suspended for 12 months.

The head contractor was also charged with breaching a category 2 offence (failure to comply with WHS duty exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury/illness) of the WHS Act.

According to the WorkSafe Queensland’s investigation, several minutes before the incident, his co-worker slipped on the path and nearly fell in the trench. The co-worker reported the near miss to the director and warned the task was dangerous. The director ignored the co-worker’s warning.

In light of this recent decision, MBA would like to remind the members to ensure that your work sites have the appropriate control measures to prevent fall risks associated with excavation and trench work.

For more information about managing risks associated with trenching and excavation work, please see WorkSafe ACT – Trenching and excavation work.