2 min read

Company neglects to implement inexpensive risk control

WorkSafe Qld v Cordwell Resources Pty Ltd (2021)

The Case

Brian Cordwell was one of six directors and a member of the Cordwell family, owners of a business known as Cordwell Resources Pty Ltd, which manufactures and supplies ready-mixed concrete aggregates and sands. Mr Cordwell managed the business operations and allocated work activities to Cordwell Resources’ workers.

On 18 March 2019, Mr Cordwell directed four workers to repair a broken valve on a pipe of the sand wash plant by using the bucket of a wheel loader. During the repair works, the wheel loader’s bucket containing the workers lifted forward, forcing one worker to jump out of the bucket and causing the second worker to sustain serious head wounds requiring stitches. Following the incident, Cordwell Resources erected scaffolding at a cost of $4,400 to repair the valve.

During the investigation, it was discovered that several workers involved in the incident had also performed work from the bucket of an excavator or a wheel loader on other occasions at the workplace.

The Verdict

At the time of the incident, Cordwell Resources had safety measures in place that included:

  • procedures for working at heights, which stipulated that a safety harness was required when maintenance work was performed at height, and personal protective equipment, a cherry picker and scaffolding were to be used as required; and
  • a plant risk assessment form for front end loaders, which stated that no one was to ride on the plant or attachments.

Both Cordwell Resources and Mr Cordwell pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19, 27 and 31 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) by failing to comply with their respective health and safety duties.

The Maroochydore Magistrates Court found that it was the conduct of Mr Cordwell in his position as a director that constituted the offending of Cordwell Resources. The Court considered several mitigating factors, including that Mr Cordwell had good standing in the community and that Cordwell Resources had no prior convictions.

Mr Cordwell was convicted and sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment, which was wholly suspended for 12 months. Cordwell Resources received a fine of $500,000.

The Lessons

You, as an employer or director, must not undermine the obligations imposed under the work health and safety laws. You have duties to ensure that only effective controls are implemented. In this case, an inexpensive option (scaffolding) could have been used initially to ensure that no one was exposed to a serious risk to their health and safety.

Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.

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