A not-for-profit organisation in Brisbane has been fined $100,000 after a golf cart incident left a young child seriously injured.
This follows an investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and subsequent legal proceedings in the Pine Rivers Magistrates Court.
The organisation owns and operates a primary school in Mango Hill and employs a groundskeeper to look after outdoor areas and perform maintenance. To get around the school, the groundskeeper used a golf cart.
On 14 February 2018, the groundskeeper was driving the golf buggy on a concrete pathway adjacent to a toilet block.
A six-year-old year student ran from the toilet block in front of the cart which struck him, and he suffered a subdural haemorrhage, fractured left tibia and damage to his left fibula, spending five days in hospital and another week at home recovering.
A WHSQ investigation revealed the defendant failed to take any steps in relation to the risk posed by the golf cart being used within the school.
In sentencing, Magistrate Trevor Morgan observed the use of the buggy in a school around primary school-aged children posed a “blindly obvious” risk if not managed appropriately. His Honour accepted there was a clear need to conduct a safety assessment and implement plans for using the cart.
Magistrate Morgan noted the golf cart was purchased by the previous school principal some years prior to the incident and not brought to the attention of his successor or to the defendant (who would have been more appropriately aware of the need to implement policy and procedure to manage its operation).
His Honour indicated the defendant had sought for its culpability to be reduced on the basis the principal had not informed it of the buggy. Magistrate Morgan did not accept that circumstance diminished the responsibility of the defendant as it had put that person in place as manager of the school and it was their decision in purchasing the mobile plant.
His Honour accepted it provided an explanation as to how the defendant’s omission occurred, noting that this was a case of an omission not a case of a positive act.
In determining a penalty, Magistrate Morgan took into consideration an early plea, noting general deterrence was relevant. His Honour observed the need for the community and others to know failure to comply with an obligation would result in a significant penalty.
Magistrate Morgan had regard to the defendant’s post-incident behaviour and remorse.
However, he indicated the failure by the defendant in this instance saw a child suffer serious injuries, which required significant and painful episodes of physical and psychological rehabilitation.
In sentencing, Magistrate Morgan noted the defendant had assisted the prosecution and accepted this as a significant mitigating circumstance. In relation to the general culpability and extent of blame, his Honour indicated it was quite significant.
Magistrate Morgan considered if a conviction should be awarded, particularly noting the objective seriousness of the defendant’s conduct. However, looking at prior and subsequent conduct, he conceded it was generally a model citizen and deemed no conviction should be recorded.
The defendant was fined $100,000 plus court costs of just over $2,700.