A Brisbane scrap metal yard has been fined $3 million for industrial manslaughter and its two directors sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, wholly suspended, for reckless conduct after a worker was hit by a reversing forklift and later died from his injuries.
The offence of industrial manslaughter commenced in Queensland in October 2017 and, since then, almost all other Australian states and territories have moved to introduce similar legislation. The offence introduced harsher penalties for businesses and their senior officers for workplace health and safety incidents that result in death. The case of R v Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd  QDC 113 is the first time a business has been sentenced under these laws and provides a warning for all companies and directors that worker safety is of paramount importance.
We produced an alert when the charges were first laid: Company and its directors charged with industrial manslaughter and reckless conduct in Queensland first.
On 17 May 2019, Mr Barry Willis was crushed between the side of his truck and a reversing forklift driven by another employee in the delivery area of Brisbane Auto Recycling. Mr Willis died from his injuries on 25 May 2019.
Brisbane Auto Recycling was charged under section 34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (WHS Act) with industrial manslaughter and its two directors, Mr Hussaini and Mr Karimi, were both charged with reckless conduct – category 1 under section 31 of the WHS Act for failing to exercise due diligence in ensuring that Brisbane Auto Recycling complied with its obligation to ensure the health and safety of its workers by:
Each defendant pleaded guilty and the sentencing hearing was in May 2020. Brisbane Auto Recycling was fined $3 million and each of the directors was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, wholly suspended for a period of 20 months.
In reaching the sentences, Judge Rafter SC considered the following:
It was noted that the fine would likely force Brisbane Auto Recycling into administration.
This case serves as a warning to companies and directors that the workplace health and safety prosecutor and the Courts will not look kindly on businesses that don’t take reasonable action to ensure the health and safety of their workers.If you would like to discuss your businesses workplace health and safety systems or policies, contact one of the Cooper Grace Ward workplace relations and safety team.