In what was a test case for the Victorian manslaughter laws a business that was facing more than $18 million in penalties has this week been fined $1.3 million and convicted with manslaughter.  The company director, who was facing 25 years in jail plead guilty to a lessor offence receiving 200 hours of community service.

Case Review

The case, the first of its kind, hinged around the duty of care owed to a worker by any employing company.  Specifically this case involved an employee being fatally crushed by a forklift.

The WorkSafe’s investigation found it had been reasonably practicable for the company to reduce the risk of serious injury or death by ensuring the forklift was driven with the load as low to the ground as possible, only driven in reverse down slopes or inclines, not driven across or turned on slopes or inclines, and only operated when other people were at a safe distance away.

The Court agreed that the company’s failure to ensure the forklift was operated properly constituted negligence because it fell well short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances.

In addition to the penalties the director and the company were also ordered to pay $120,000 in pain and suffering compensation to the killed worker’s family.

Learnings for all businesses

“This prosecution is a clear reminder to duty holders of the serious personal and financial consequences they face if they engage in activity that puts the health and safety of workers at risk,” WorkSafe health and safety executive director Dr Narelle Beer said.

“There is no such thing as unavoidable workplace harm and the impact that a loss of life has on family, friends and colleagues can never be understated,” she said.

Here to Help

This article is general in nature and covers things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. It is provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation.  ACAPMA Employment Professionals are available to assist ACAPMA members via employment@acapma.com.au. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $860 inc GST per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.  Visit: https://acapma.com.au/membership/   to learn more or to apply for ACAPMA membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM & IR)
Executive Manager for Employment and Compliance
ACAPMA

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