In line with its strategic objectives, anecdotal evidence
suggests WorkSafe Victoria is continuing to increase the number of
prosecutions following workplace incidents and commencing those
In the 2009/10 financial year, WorkSafe set itself performance
achieve an investigation conversion rate greater than 80%
ensure the percentage of investigations that proceed to
prosecution charges within 12 months is greater than 75%
achieve a successful prosecution rate greater than 90%.
WorkSafe's objectives and priorities in 2010/11 include
further increasing and targeting its investigation and enforcement
activity, focusing on discrimination, bullying and reckless
In our experience, WorkSafe are currently achieving those
objectives through incident investigations and the filing of
charges. A comprehensive investigation following an incident can
take several months, with charges being issued anywhere up to two
years following the incident (and in some cases, with the Director
of Public Prosecutions' authority, after this time). Charges
may be issued against a number of companies in respect of the same
incident and may also be issued against individual employees or
officers of the companies.
If your organisation has had an investigated occupational health
and safety incident in the last two years, it should prepare itself
for the issuing of charges by obtaining legal advice as soon after
the receipt of a charge sheet. There are a number of ways a
prosecution may proceed and it is important that advice is obtained
on the options available to a defendant. A thorough review of the
evidence contained in the brief provided by WorkSafe is necessary
to determine the appropriate strategy moving forward. This may
seeking to negotiate the charges with WorkSafe
entering an early guilty plea
proceeding to a committal hearing to determine if the evidence
is of sufficient weight to put before a jury
proceeding to a trial before a jury
in the event a guilty plea is entered or a finding of guilt is
made, preparation of mitigatory material to put before the court
prior to sentencing.
In addition to the significant financial penalties a court may
impose if a company pleads or is found guilty of a breach of
occupational health and safety law (over A$1 million per breach), a
criminal conviction often has long lasting impacts on a company,
such as in circumstances where disclosure of any convictions is
required when tendering for works.
To discuss the process of a prosecution or to obtain advice on
appropriate strategies following the receipt of charges, please
contact one of our occupational health and safety team below.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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