$3 Million Fine – Directors receive suspended jail sentences for first industrial manslaughter conviction.

Australia’s first conviction and sentence for industrial manslaughter was handed down recently in the Brisbane District Court which issued a $3 million company fine and suspended jail sentences to two company directors over an incident in which a worker was crushed and killed by a forklift.

The incident occurred in May 2019 at a wrecking yard in Rocklea, Brisbane when the worker received fatal injuries when a reversing forklift crushed him between the forklift and a stationary truck.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and Queensland Police’s investigation revealed that the business had no documented safety systems and that the driver of the forklift was not licensed.

The defendant, Brisbane Auto Recycling had entered a guilty plea to one offence contrary to s.34C of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. A guilty plea was also entered by the two directors to a charge of reckless conduct under s.31 of the Act.

Each failed in their duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the corporate defendant complied with its safety obligations under the Act.

Brisbane Auto Recycling was convicted and fined $3 million while the directors were each convicted and sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, wholly suspended for 20 months. And, of course, there have been other similar cases in Queensland.

So what is happening in Western Australia?

Following a recent call to WorkSafe WA I was told that the Western Australian Work Health and Safety Bill is still under consideration and will be for some time to come. It seems that one reason for the delay is over the implications of the Industrial Manslaughter sections of the bill and how they will be applied.

Whatever the outcome it seems clear that the industrial manslaughter clauses will apply which means that directors and senior managers will be in the firing line.

So what can you do about it?

I suggest you make sure now that you have fully documented safety management system to help you demonstrate your duty of care and due diligence obligations, you train your people and you supervise them.

Asking us to carry out and external and independent audit of your system (using the WorkSafe Plan) to see if you meet WorkSafe WA’s requirements. Call us to discuss

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