A Brisbane-based company director has just been sentenced to jail for 1 year and slapped with a $1 million dollar fine for being found guilty of reckless conduct in the workplace.
It’s a first for Queensland, yet is the second custodial sentence issued for breach of WHS duties in Australia, following a recent hearing in Victoria where a 6-month sentence was passed.
As State Safety Authorities increase their focus on officers’ and directors’ individual liability, we expect to see a rise in penalties imposed by the courts.
You might like to read: How to get you WHS Standards up to scratch in any business
A breakdown of what happened
Details: Multi-Run Roofing Pty Ltd was contracted to do roofing works at a soft drink factory in 2014. Safety rails, included in the pricing, were not installed at the time of the accident. An alternative system of fall protection was employed using 2 scissor lifts and safety harnesses. 62-year-old worker Whareheepa Te Amo fell 6m to his death while performing roofing works. No system of fall protection was being used on the day of the incident.
Findings: A Category 1 offence was committed involving reckless conduct, a contravention of s 19(2) and/or s 20 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011(Qld) occurred. It was reasonably practicable to install a handrail.
Penalties: Director of Multi-Run Roofing Pty Ltd, Gary Levin, was jailed for 12 months. Multi-Run Roofing Pty Ltd was fined $1million
How to ensure directors and officers understand their duties
The Australian WHS rules and regulations require all PCBU (persons conducting a business undertaking) to ensure that workers are not injured or harmed at work so far as reasonably practicable. As a director or officer, it is mandatory to ensure compliance and show you have taken reasonable steps of due diligence by:
- Acquiring knowledge of health and safety issues
- Understanding operations and associated hazards and risks
- Ensuring that appropriate resources and processes are used to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety
- Implementing processes to receive and respond to information about incidents, hazards and risks
- Establishing and maintaining compliance processes with up-to-date safety information
- To verify the provision and use of the resources and processes mentioned above.
Determining the status of a company’s WHS compliance
It’s not always easy to determine the status of WHS compliance within the workplace. It can be even more challenging to uncover flaws within internal systems or processes – particularly without the right training or understanding of current legislation.
An external WHS Audit works by systematically examining the current status of a WHS system and can uncover previously unnoticed deficiencies. The audit measures compliance levels against relevant legislation and identifies areas to improve with an action plan of priority.
When it comes to the work, health and safety of Australian businesses and workers, there is no room for complacency. Being prepared and proactive about the WHS within the workplace is what matters. Exercise due diligence, keep up to date with training and check-in with a gap analysis every 1- 2 years to demonstrate continual improvements in the eyes of relevant authorities.
Make sure you don’t get fined or jailed – book our Officers Due Diligence training course.
Our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email email@example.com
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/