In a first for WA Safety Laws a jail sentence of 2 years and 2 months has been handed down to a director for a safety breach that resulted in the death of one worker and the serious injury of another. The jail sentence is in addition to the fines that were handed to the business of $550,000 and $2,250 to the director personally.

The fatal accident occurred as two workers were installing roof sheets on a shed they were building at a farm when a strong wind picked up and knocked them to the ground. The workers were not wearing fall protection gear and one was not licenced to operate the cranes being used. In handing down the sentence it was noted that the strong winds were a known and common occurrence in the area, and fall protection should have been employed regardless of wind risk due to the simple height risk.

The director would have faced even higher penalties and jail time for a similar offence after 1 Jan 2022 when the WA workplace manslaughter offences come into operation where the maximum fine is $5m and jail time of up to 20 years

Learnings for all businesses

The Director was not an operational officeholder but commenting on the case, law firm Kingston Reid noted “while safety is often considered a purely operational matter, this decision and outcome demonstrates that responsibility for safety exists at every level of an enterprise”