Scenes from the Industrial accident causing death at Cleveland Trade Centre, Bohle, Townsville.
Scenes from the Industrial accident causing death at Cleveland Trade Centre, Bohle, Townsville.

Business fined after man crushed to death

A TOWNSVILLE business's failure to provide a safe work environment has been blamed for the death of a worker.

John Wassmuth was killed when a load of timber being taken off a truck at the Cleveland Trade Centre at Bohle fell on him on September 5, 2016.

Mr Wassmuth was a truck driver who had helped unstrap the timber before a forklift attempted to remove the load.

The wood fell from the forklift on to Mr Wassmuth, crushing the 65-year-old to death.

Cleveland Timbers pleaded guilty to one count of failure to comply with health and safety duty when the matter was heard in Townsville Magistrates Court yesterday.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland prosecutor Bob Watson said the company's lack of appropriate safety procedure was worthy of significant condemnation.

He said the business operated with an informal system that placed truck drivers and forklift operators in close proximity, despite being previously told to lift safety standards.

"In 2013 the defendant had been issued an improvement notice … it has failed to ensure the provision and maintenance of a safe system of work where workers and forklifts are working in shared areas," Mr Watson said. "Pedestrian workers ought to have been nowhere near the process (of removing the load with the forklift). This defendant is solely to blame for this offence … its unloading activity, its premises, it ought to have put a system in place. This has resulted in the death of Mr Wassmuth."

Defence barrister John Bremhorst clarified that Mr Wassmuth was not an employee of Cleveland Timbers but said the company assisted with funeral costs.

In an affidavit to the court, Cleveland Timbers managing director Darryl John Gibson expressed his "deep regret" over the incident.

Mr Bremhorst said the business had spent between $120,000 and $150,000 to upgrade safety operations since the incident.

"The company has effectively pulled its socks up and implemented the system that should have been there in the first place," he said.

Both the prosecution and defence agreed the range of penalty fell between a $200,000 and $250,000 fine but Mr Bremhorst argued it should be on the lower end of that scale, considering Cleveland Timbers was a relatively small, family-owned business.

Mr Watson said a conviction should be recorded given the seriousness of the offence and the resulting consequences, while Mr Bremhorst asked for no conviction, claiming the recording of one could have long-term financial implications for the business.

Magistrate Cathy Wadley reserved her decision and will hand down her sentence at a later date.