Record court fines for failing to keep workplaces safe

1 August 2016

Almost 130 businesses and individuals were fined a record amount by the Victorian courts in 2015-16 for breaching OHS laws.

 

New figures released today by WorkSafe reveal 108 businesses and 21 individuals were fined or ordered to pay restitution totalling more than $6.2 million.

The 108 businesses were ordered by the courts to pay fines and costs totalling almost $5.56 million. Of these, almost 40 were involved in the construction sector. They included:

  • Frankipile Australia and Vibro-pile Australia, which were each convicted and fined $750,000 over the death of a worker who fell more than 40 metres when the mast of a piling rig collapsed at Southbank in 2011.
  • Thiess Services Pty Ltd, which was convicted and fined a total of $600,000 following two incidents involving an overloaded barge working on the Patterson River. One of the incidents involved the barge capsizing, throwing three workers into the water and trapping one in the excavator in the water, seriously injuring him.
  • Bilic Homes, which was convicted and fined $300,000 over an incident in which a carpenter died after being crushed by a brick wall on a construction site at Brighton East in 2014.
  • Aussie Signs, which was convicted and fined $250,000 over its involvement in the attachment of a timber hoarding to a wall which increased the risk of the wall collapsing at Carlton. The wall collapsed and killed three people in 2013.

A significant number of businesses in the manufacturing sector were also prosecuted. They included:

  • Conveyer belt manufacturer Veyance Belting Pty Ltd, which was fined $90,000 over an incident in 2014 in which an employee suffered serious arm injuries when he became caught in machinery beneath a moving conveyer belt.
  • Caravan manufacturer Jurgens Australia Pty Ltd, which was convicted and fined $80,000 over an incident in 2014 in which an employee had two fingers severed while using an unguarded router.
  • Chicken processer Turi Foods Pty Ltd, which was convicted and fined $60,000 over an incident in 2014 where an employee suffered serious hand and arm injuries when she became caught in a giblet processor.


In other significant cases, Cool Dynamics Refrigeration Pty Ltd was convicted and fined a total of $285,000 over an incident in 2011 in which an employee died when the van he was about to enter exploded; and Essendon Football Club was convicted and fined a total of $200,000 over its 2011-13 supplements program that put the health and safety of its players at risk.

Last year, 21 individuals were also found guilty of fraudulently obtaining workers’ compensation payments and were ordered to pay fines and restitution of more than $620,000.

Minister for Finance, Robin Scott MP, said health and safety had to be everyone’s priority in order to prevent workplace tragedies.

“No worker should have to suffer the pain of being injured at work, and no family should ever have to suffer the anguish of knowing their loved one did not get home safely at the end of the day,” Mr Scott said.

“While a court outcome can provide a measure of comfort to the victim or their family, it cannot take away the pain caused by a serious injury or losing a loved one in a workplace incident.”

WorkSafe Chief Executive, Clare Amies, said the record amount of fines imposed by the courts in 2015-16 was a reminder to businesses and individuals of the significant penalties they faced if they did not comply with their health and safety obligations.

“WorkSafe is committed to improving workplace health and safety and, if it is found that employers have failed to provide a safe working environment for their workers, they can expect to face large fines and significant damage to their reputation,” Ms Amies said.

“Health and safety duties are not only applicable to employers - everyone at the workplace must take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others.”

Ms Amies said WorkSafe would continue to monitor the compensation system to uncover fraudulent activity by any individual and ensure it was dealt with.

“Last year, WorkSafe provided almost $1.9 billion in support and benefits to injured workers while managing more than 90,000 claims, and the community has an expectation that we are monitoring this carefully to ensure injured workers are getting the correct benefits,” Ms Amies said.

“Prosecutions are an important deterrent to help protect honest workers and the employers who fund the workers' compensation scheme.”

A full list of WorkSafe’s prosecution outcomes can be found at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au 

 

WorkSafe prosecutions

Year

Successful prosecutions

Total $

(fines, costs and restitution)

2015/16

129

$6,211,603.35

2014/15

127

$5,930,889.31

2013/14

122

$4,338,452.58

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