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Worker receives suspended sentence after felling apprentice with concrete block

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Date: 
Wednesday, 19 October, 2022 - 12:30
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Queensland

A worker who felled another worker by throwing a six-kilogram concrete block from a height of six meters, striking the worker on his head has received a four-month jail term, wholly suspended.

The severely injured worker sustained a serious head injury, including a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, head laceration, black eye, damage to the sinus cavity, chipped teeth and bruising to his shoulder and collarbone.

Peter Vidot recently pleaded not guilty in the Brisbane District Court to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by engaging in conduct that exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury and was reckless as to the risk to an individual of death or serious injury or illness.

The court heard the defendant was employed as a labourer, whose company had been subcontracted to perform some drilling into a concrete wall as part of a larger job of installing air conditioning units into newly built school buildings at Richlands East State School.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found that on 30 June 2020, the defendant was onsite working with the use of an elevated work platform because holes needed to be drilled into the upper level of the exterior of the building, in order to install air-conditioning units.

The process of concrete drilling produced a piece of concrete waste weighing six kilograms. Having drilled the first hole, the apprentice repositioned the elevated work platform in order for the next hole to be drilled. The defendant got into the elevated work platform and raised it to around six metres above ground level.

A number of people were in the vicinity when the defendant engaged in ‘banter’ with other workers onsite about not having hard hats on. The defendant then grinned and threw the concrete block from the elevated work platform in the general direction towards where workers were standing, striking the apprentice in the head and felling him to the ground in what the court heard was a “moment of madness”.

The jury returned a guilty verdict at the end of the third day of the trial. In sentencing, Judge Glen Cash KC took into account the circumstances of the offending, including that the defendant had lobbed heavy concrete from the elevated work platform and struck a worker, causing serious injuries, and that he had been convicted by the jury of reckless conduct, together with the nature of the conduct, involving both an awareness of the risk and recklessness.

His Honour found the conduct was very brief but was seriously risky and inherently dangerous, it being fortunate that the outcome was not more serious, with the defendant failing to follow the safety measures he himself had signed.

However, his Honour found Peter Jeffery Vidot was a mature man who was well regarded and had always worked well and safely and he was supported by friends.

Judge Cash KC said deterrence was a major consideration and he sentenced the defendant to imprisonment for four months, which he ordered be wholly suspended for an operational period of four months. A conviction was recorded.