Port operator fined over safety threats

A port operator has been convicted and fined $475,000 after threatening workers who raised safety concerns.


Patrick Stevedores Holdings Pty Ltd (PSH) was sentenced in relation to six counts of engaging in discriminatory conduct contrary to section 76 of the OHS Act.

The fines were issued after a County Court jury had returned verdicts of guilty on six of seven counts on the indictment on December 3. PSH was found not guilty on the seventh count.

The court heard four employees were threatened by PSH's Westernport Port Manager on 11 and 12 March 2009 after they raised health and safety concerns about the proposed use of a forklift to lift heavy steel coils.

PHS was fined $80,000 on count 1, $75,000 on counts 2, 6 & 7, and $85,000 on counts 4 and 5.

The matter has been before the courts for a long period of time because it was heavily contested and a previous trial was abandoned when the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said threatening workers who raise health and safety concerns will not be tolerated.

"Employers have a duty to take the safety concerns of employees seriously and not simply dismiss them out of hand or threaten them for doing so. The consequences of such actions can be catastrophic," Ms Nielsen said.

"Workers are often ideally placed to identify unsafe work practises or situations and are encouraged to speak up if they feel their safety of the safety of the colleagues or the public is at risk."

"They should always be encouraged to do so because the safest workplaces are those where workers and management work together."