Fines of $3.5 million after death of teenager

24 January 2018

In April 2016 18-year-old Joshua Park-Fing was working at Queensland’s Toowoomba Showgrounds when he fell from a flatbed tractor trailer, sustaining fatal head injuries. His employment was facilitated by the Federal Government’s Work for the Dole (WFD) program. The worker was assigned to the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland (RASQ) by job services provider NEATO Employment Services Pty Ltd (NEATO).

RASQ, NEATO and WFD project co-ordinator Adrian Strachan have all been charged with alleged breaches the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (QLD) (the Act) over the incident. The three parties face a combined maximum penalty of more than $3.5 million.

The RASQ has been charged with two breaches of sections 19(1), 21 and 32 of the Act, in failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers it influenced or directed. RASQ allegedly failed to implement adequate systems, such as providing proper supervision to prevent workers riding on the trailer and properly maintaining the tractor to mitigate risks to the health and safety of any person. The RASQ faces maximum fines of $1.5 million for each of the two charges.

NEATO allegedly failed to comply with its primary duty of care to WFD participants by not providing adequate supervision for WFD participants whilst working in the host employer’s business or undertaking, breaching of sections 19 and 33 of the Act and facing a maximum fine of $500,000.

Mr Strachan was charged with failing to comply with his safety duties as a worker, in breach of sections 28 and 33.

Work Health and Safety Queensland stated Mr Strachan was responsible for overseeing WFD supervisors, the placement of WFD workers, and their work at host employers, but allegedly failed to comply with NEATO’s policies or take reasonable steps to ensure workers followed them. Mr Strachan faces a maximum penalty of $50,000.

Recommendations for employers:

This incident serves as a reminder for all parties connected with employment to ensure safety precautions are met and prioritised. Any party charged with the responsibility of employees should ensure:

  • Compliance with WHS laws and regulations;
  • Safe work standards are implemented, followed and updated on a regular basis; and
  • Proper risk management strategies are put in place.

Hentys Lawyers is a premier adviser on all facets of work health and safety and employment law and operates on a national basis for clients across a diverse range of industries.

Our Senior Consultant Health and Safety, Mr Eric Singh, regularly conducts worksite assessments, audits and accident investigations and can assist your workplace with the development of WHS policies, protocols and procedures to ensure regulatory and best practice compliance. Eric can also attend worksites when an incident has occurred and act as a WorkSafe liaison.

If your business requires assistance in any of these areas, please contact us to obtain a cost estimate for Eric to conduct a health and safety audit of your worksite.