Employers fined more than $16 million for safety breaches
Victorian employers are reminded they face serious legal consequences if they put workers at risk after WorkSafe completed 153 successful health and safety prosecutions last year.
Published:25 January 2024
The total of $16,182,957 in fines imposed by the courts in 2023 for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Dangerous Goods Act included three separate seven-figure penalties and a further 25 prosecutions attracting fines of at least $100,000.
Offences involving the risk of a fall from height, which is among the leading causes of workplace fatalities in Victoria, continue to be a key compliance priority and were the subject of 39 prosecutions and fines of almost $2 million.
There were 25 prosecutions for unsafe machinery including inadequate guarding, 15 relating to the risk of being crushed by or between objects, and 13 involving powered mobile plant such as forklifts.
More than half of WorkSafe's health and safety prosecutions last year were against employers in the construction (52) and manufacturing (38) industries; followed by transport, postal and warehousing (11) and wholesale trade (10).
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said inspectors and investigators would continue to target workplaces where harm was most likely to occur.
"The safest places to work are those where employers accept that injuries and fatalities are preventable and priority is placed on doing what they can to protect their people," Dr Beer said.
"WorkSafe will use every enforcement tool at its disposal to hold to account employers who put the health and safety of their workers or others at risk."
Tragically, 17 of WorkSafe's successful prosecutions and $6.3 million in fines imposed by the courts last year related to a workplace fatality.
Dr Beer said multiple duty holders were also prosecuted for offences involving workplace bullying and sexual harassment, including several matters involving a number of young and vulnerable workers.
"Employers must have systems and processes in place to identify, assess and respond to hazards and associated risks to both the physical and mental health of their workers," she said.
"This includes ensuring there is adequate training and supervision and that workers are encouraged to speak up or ask questions when they have concerns for their safety."
In addition to last year's court outcomes, WorkSafe also accepted seven enforceable undertakings from duty holders committing to spend a combined $1.2 million dollars to improve workplace health and safety knowledge and outcomes in their respective industries.
Major WorkSafe prosecution outcomes in 2023:
Bradbury Industrial Services Pty Ltd convicted and fined $2.9 million in relation to an explosion and fire at a Campbellfield warehouse in 2019 and chemical stockpiles at other sites across Melbourne's north.
Manufacturer Dennis Jones Engineering Pty Ltd convicted and fined $2.1 million after an apprentice suffered life-changing head injuries at a Gippsland factory in October 2021.
Energy Australia Yallourn Pty Ltd convicted and fined $1.5 million following the death of a worker in an arc flash incident at Yallourn Power Station in November 2018.
Diving company Underwater Inspection Services convicted and fined $730,000 for repeatedly putting workers at risk at sites across Victoria between May and August 2018.
Gas cylinder supplier Supagas Pty Ltd fined $550,000 after a worker was left permanently disabled in a ute explosion at Bayswater in December 2017.