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Case Update: Employer Fined $75,000 for Failing to Provide Safe Work Place

By Chris Volpi

9th July 2019

The case of Richardson v Ollis Construction Pty Ltd [2019] QMC 5 (8 May 2019) serves as an important reminder to employers of their obligations to provide employees with a safe work environment and a safe system of work.

Earlier this month Ollis Construction Pty Ltd was fined $75,000 for breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) after an employee, Mr Bodhii Dunlop, suffered serious hand injuries while using a Makita circular saw.

Mr Dunlop had been employed by Ollis Construction Pty Ltd (‘the Employer’) as an apprentice concreter for approximately three months prior to the accident. At the commencement of his employment Mr Dunlop was provided with only a brief verbal induction. He was never provided with specific instructions or training in relation to the use of the Makita circular saw, however he was familiar with the use of other circular saws.

On the day of the accident Mr Dunlop had been directed by the Employer to purchase the Makita circular saw which was to be used to cut pine framing timber. Upon returning to the workshop with the newly purchased saw, Mr Dunlop, without his supervisor present. proceeded to unpack and commence cutting timber with the saw. He suffered serious hand injuries when the blade of the saw grabbed on to an unsecured piece of timber which caused Mr Dunlop’s left hand to come in contact with the blade of the saw. He subsequently developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

The Court found that Mr Dunlop had been instructed to cut the timber but was not told about the existence of safety equipment and how to use it. He was given no instructions or supervision in the safe operation of the saw and there was no evidence to suggest that Mr Dunlop had read the instruction manual prior to using the saw or that he was instructed to do so.

The Employer was fined $75,000 for failing to provide a safe work place and a safe system of work in breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).

Even though Mr Dunlop chose to use the saw without reading the safety instructions and without his supervisor present, the employer had a duty of care and was obligated to ensure that Mr Dunlop had been directed to read the safety instructions and had been properly trained to use safety equipment when cutting timber. By failing to provide appropriate training and directions the Employer was in breach of its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).

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