Work safety inspector intimidated over asbestos complaint

A demolition business owner has been fined $5,000 for intimidating a Queensland Government work safety inspector.

The defendant pleaded guilty in the Pine Rivers Magistrates Court recently to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by intimidating the inspector.

The court heard that on 29 September 2020, a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspector attended a worksite where the defendant was demolishing a house.

The inspector, who had received an asbestos complaint, was wearing his uniform, a hi-vis vest and displayed his ID card, but before he had even entered the site, the defendant confronted him on the footpath.

The court heard the defendant was angry, aggressive and repeatedly shouting expletives. His actions – yelling, the words used and their repetition, and his close proximity to the inspector and waving of his arms – intimidated the inspector.

The inspector tried to placate the defendant, telling him he was only there to assist, but the defendant continued to swear at him. The inspector, thinking he was going to be assaulted began to walk away, but the defendant followed.

The inspector returned with a colleague, and they spoke with the defendant, who apologised but denied threatening the inspector.

In sentencing, Acting Magistrate Patrick Murphy took into account that the defendant had entered a plea of guilty, but noted how long the matter had been before the court.

Acting Magistrate Murphy stated the defendant’s behaviour had been deplorable and the inspector was just doing his job. He imposed a fine of $5,000 and ordered the defendant pay costs of approximately $1,100. No conviction was recorded.

Work health and safety prosecution summaries in Queensland are published at owhsp.qld.gov.au

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