Conviction for assaulting WorkSafe inspector

A man has been convicted and fined $3500 for assaulting a WorkSafe inspector at an Elwood construction site.


Atholl Robertson, 51, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday to spitting on the inspector and hindering him in the course of his duties.

Robertson was also ordered to pay $127.40 in costs.

The court heard that the inspector was driving past the construction site in October last year and noticed employees working close to an unprotected edge more than two metres above ground.

He directed the workers to return to the ground for their own safety, before asking for their details.

The court heard Robertson refused to identify himself to the inspector while swearing and pacing around him. He then spat on the inspector twice.

After leaving the area Robertson returned, hit the inspector’s notebook from his hand and attempted to take his identification.

The court heard the offending was prolonged, aggressive and humiliating, and in contravention of section 125 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004), which protects WorkSafe inspectors who visit workplaces around the state, every day of the year.

Witnesses said the inspector maintained a calm demeanour and behaved professionally throughout the ordeal.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said WorkSafe would not hesitate to prosecute and hold to account anyone who assaults an inspector in the course of their work.

"Our inspectors can attend any workplace at any time, and obstructing them from doing their job to protect workers from unsafe practices will not be tolerated under any circumstance," Ms Nielsen said.

"Everyone has a right to be safe from violence and aggression while on the job, including WorkSafe inspectors."

WorkSafe inspectors have the right to undertake the following action when visiting a workplace:

  • Ask you, your employees or other people questions.
  • Take photographs, recordings and measurements.
  • Take items away with them for examination, testing or for use as evidence.
  • Take samples of substances or objects.
  • Ask to see your documents, make copies or take the documents.
  • Call in other people to assist them, including technical or scientific experts, interpreters or police officers.

They can also:

  • Review a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) issued by a health and safety representative and affirm, modify or cancel it.
  • Review a worker’s decision to cease work because of safety concerns.
  • If an incident has occurred, give you a non-disturbance notice to keep the scene of the incident as it is.

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