Company director fined

Elite Portables and PSH Holdings director Paul Jeffrey Hansen fined in Toowoomba Magistrates Court after worker was seriously injured
An employee of a Toowoomba business lost four toes in a workplace incident two years ago, with the company and its director copping a hefty fine after facing court.

A company and its director have been hit with more than $55,000 in fines after a workplace incident left an employee without four toes when his foot was crushed by a metal beam.

The incident took place at the Glenvale workshop of PSH Holdings, trading as Elite Portables, on June 30, 2020 Toowoomba Magistrates Court was told on Tuesday.

The business specialised in portable buildings, such as offices, classrooms and dongas, and had been in operation since January 2002.

Office of Workplace Health and Safety senior prosecutor Kimberley Daws said the company worked with heavy steel beams, weighing up to 250kg each, with one welder working on the beams.

The victim, an administration assistant, had previously been told not to enter areas where heavy material was being worked on “more than necessary”, which Ms Daws said indicated the company was aware of the risk posed.

“The risk arising was obvious, clearly identifiable and foreseeable given that the movement of heavy large beams was a routine task manually undertaken by workers,” Ms Daws said.

“There was no policy in place requiring people entering the construction area to wear protective footwear, and no safe exclusion zone around the work area where the risk ultimately materialised.”

While the welding work was normally conducted within the workshop, the court was told on the day of the incident the workshop was occupied so the welding work was performed outside, where the flooring was uneven, with the metal beams on a homemade trestle.

The victim entered the outdoor area and was speaking to the welder when he moved one of the beams, which caused the trestle to vibrate and a second beam fell to the ground, landing on the victim’s foot, crushing it.

The man was hospitalised as a result, and the “catastrophic” crush injury resulted in four toes being amputated.

In court the company’s director, Paul Jeffrey Hansen, pleaded guilty on behalf of himself and PSH Holdings to failure to comply with their health and safety duty.

“While the defendant may not have been able to entirely remove the risk, uncomplicated steps were available to reduce the risks to an acceptable minimum,” Ms Daws said.

“These steps could have been taken at a low cost with minor inconvenience which is demonstrated by the post-offence conduct.”

Mr Hansen’s solicitor Ian Dempster said his client was cooperative with WHS investigators when the complaint was made at the start of 2022.

“He regards the entire episode as regretful,” Mr Dempster said of his client.

The court was told there had been no previous workplace incidents, apart from a brown snake that was found at the workshop.

Mr Dempster said while his client took responsibility for the safety failure, the victim had “no appreciation” for the risk he had been exposed to on the day.

“We are not blaming (the victim) for the incident but … he was regularly given instructions not to go but despite those warnings continued going into the workshop area (while work was being conducted),” Mr Dempster said.

Magistrate Louise Shephard fined the company $50,000, and Mr Hansen $7500, and ordered the repayment of costs of $1702.80, with all fines referred to SPER. No convictions were recorded.

Source: Courier Mail

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