Company cops 'high' fine over 2016 work for the dole death
A NORTH Queensland-based company has been fined $90,000 over its involvement in the 2016 work for the dole death of Joshua Park-Fing.
After a two-year process through the courts, Neato Employment Services Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a health and safety duty (category three) after agreeing to an amended complaint filed by the Office of Industrial Relations in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court today.
Mr Park-Fing, 18, died after falling off a tractor tray on the Toowoomba Showgrounds while working on the Federal Government-sponsored program.
Magistrate Viviana Keegan said she came to the opinion that the company's conduct failed in a number of areas including training and supervision of workers, warranting the fine to be in the higher range.
The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $500,000, though the Office of Industrial Relations' legal representative submitted it would be seeking one of no less than $120,000.
"The conduct on that day has had tragic consequences in that Mr Park-Fing was only 18 years of age when he lost his life," Magistrate Keegan said.
"No doubt there have been devastating and long-standing effects, not only on his family and I acknowledge (his mother's victim impact statement), but also on his friends and co-workers involved in the tragedy.
"However, the fact Mr Park-Fing lost his life is not an element in considering the culpability of the defendant."
Neato's legal team argued that the company was culpable in some aspects of the incident but less so in others, claiming that Mr Park-Fing answered 'no' on a questionnaire that asked "is it suitable to ride in the back of a tray on a tractor" prior to joining the program.
The company submitted to the court that it had put 39,000 people into employment since 2015, sponsored a charity rugby league carnival and had an unblemished record up until this point.
The court also heard that there was no certified supervisor on the site on the day of the incident, but that one had arrived after.
Joshua's mother Jenny told media outside the courthouse the day had been "difficult" - before breaking down in tears.
Magistrate Keegan ordered that no conviction be recorded against Neato and gave the company two months to pay the $90,000 fine and costs.
"The risk was obvious and it was easily forseeable what sort of consequences would have occurred," she said.
"It would have been easy to take steps to avoid the risks."