Safety legislation creates a positive duty on businesses. This means that breaches can occur even if there is no incident and no-one gets hurt. Two recent cases have resulted in substantial penalties for businesses, even though there was no incident or injury.
In the first case a scaffolding company was fined $15,000, without a conviction, plus $4,882 in costs (reduced from $35,000, a conviction and $4,882 in costs because the business pled guilty) for putting workers at risk of injury by allowing them to set up scaffolding within 500mm of an energised overhead insulated service line.
In the second case a meatpackers was fined $8,000, without a conviction, plus $3,758 in costs (reduced from $35,000, a conviction and $3,758 in costs because the business pled guilty) for allowing high risk work without a permit when it allowed a worker to be lifted a metre from the ground by a forklift. The forklift was lifting a pallet with bins on it along with the worker, who was then emptying the bins into a skip.
Learnings for all businesses
“Safety as a positive duty is a concept that businesses are familiar with, on paper, but rarely are fines and convictions issued where there has not been an incident” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.
“The WHS laws are all aimed at outcomes, at achieving safer workplaces. So it should not be surprising to see fines issued for unsafe work practices that COULD HAVE but did not, result in injury. It is in fact a good thing that these practices have been identified and stopped BEFORE someone was hurt” continues Elisha.
“The message to all businesses is clear, just because no one got hurt, does not mean it is ok. It is time to review instructions and actual processes to ensure that the business is not allowing or encouraging unsafe practices…because fines are coming, even if no one gets hurt” concluded Elisha.
Here to Help
Safety Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice. You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor. ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via firstname.lastname@example.org , it is free for members. ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/ for more information.
Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)