2 min read

Manufacturer and director rack up $130,000 in fines

A Queensland materials manufacturing company has been fined $100,000, and its director fined $30,000, in relation to a worker suffering injury from entanglement in the rollers of a glue-spreading machine (WorkSafe Queensland v Ashden Trading Pty Ltd).

The company, Ashden Trading Pty Ltd, manufactures pressed wooden panels. During the end stages of the production process, the pressed wooden panel is passed through a glue-spreading machine, which uses two heavy rollers to apply glue to either side of the panel. The panels are then covered in laminate.

On 22 November 2021, one of the company’s workers was tasked with cleaning the glue-spreading machine to remove excess glue that had accumulated on the surface of the rollers. The company director instructed a worker to clean the glue rollers with a toothbrush while the machine was operational. While doing so, the worker’s arm became entangled in the roller. The worker suffered a fractured elbow and compartment syndrome in his forearm.

The company pleaded guilty to a charge under section 32 of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) on account of its failure to ensure the health and safety of its workers, which exposed its workers to a risk of death or serious injury or illness. 

The Magistrate found that the company disregarded the clear safety instructions provided by the glue-spreading machine’s manufacturer, which warned that the machine should never be cleaned while the rollers are rotating. Furthermore, the Magistrate found that the company failed to provide a safe work plan or training to its workers on how to clean the machine safely.

During sentencing, the Magistrate had regard to the company’s early guilty plea, clean safety record and good character as mitigating factors. However, given the gravity of the offending and the level of reckless indifference on the part of the company director, the Magistrate considered it necessary to ensure the fine was sufficiently large to punish the company, deter future offending, and account for the impact on the victim.

The company was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine, plus legal costs.

The company director submitted that given the company was a closely held family company, the fine imposed on the director should be no more than $1,000, otherwise it would amount to punishing the director twice for essentially the same criminal conduct. The Magistrate rejected the submission and fined the director $30,000 for his failure to exercise an officer’s duty of due diligence.

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