Huge fines for WA companies failing to provide safe workplaces

With WA’s new workplace laws now firmly in place, WA companies need to ensure they are compliant and safe, or risk huge fines.

A company involved in steel importation and land development has been fined a total of $240,000 (and ordered to pay $30,581 in costs) over an incident in which a 19-year-old worker had seven fingers amputated by forklift chains.

The employer had failed to provide a safe workplace for the employee in a number of ways and had then failed to report the injury for a period of more than a month. The company did not provide the worker, or other employees, with any induction or training in safe work procedures or provide any written safe work procedures or information on the safe use and maintenance of forklifts.

Reporting of an incident is required by law and the non-reporting by the company resulted in a fine of $20,000 alone.

In another case, a construction company and plumbing contractor were fined a total of $720,000 (and ordered to pay $35,000 in costs) over an incident in which a worker drowned in a trench when a water main burst in 2018.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of an employee, and was fined $600,000.

The company caused the worker’s death by not taking a practicable measure to protect him from harm. There was also no rescue plan in place for the excavation site, despite the fact the trench was between 2.2 and 3 metres deep, significantly deeper than the 1.5 metre minimum for a rescue plan to be in place.

A Perth freight transport company has also been fined $40,000 (and ordered to pay $18,996.30 in costs) after the court decided it failed to provide a safe workplace for employees of one of its contractors. A truck veered off the road overturned and caught fire. The driver escaped serious injury, but the second driver, who was asleep on the bunk behind the cabin seats, died when the cabin was engulfed by fire.

The driver was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death and sentenced to three years and four months in prison by the WA District Court.

The truck involved had been fitted with a system designed to detect fatigue events in which a driver’s eyes are closed for more than 1.5 seconds or the driver is distracted. It was found that previous records showed the driver had intentionally moved the in-cab camera (on over 400 occasions) so it was misaligned and no longer working effectively. The trucking company took no action in relation to the continuous records of misalignment exceptions over a significant period of time.

The company failed to adequately monitor daily reports on ‘field-of-view’ exceptions and, as a result, failed to take any action on the unusually high number of camera misalignments in this particular vehicle.

This action contravened fatigue management laws to ensure sufficient rest to allow employees to function efficiently.