WorkSafe Victoria has announced it will
"fast track" prosecutions for alleged breaches of
occupational health and safety legislation in relation to
investigations currently underway or recently concluded. WorkSafe
yesterday indicated thatits "blitz" on prosecutions and
enforcementis designed to send a clear message that unsafe work
practices will not be tolerated.
As part of the "blitz",
WorkSafe inspectors will also visit more than 4000 businesses in
eight target industries over the next year and will issue notices
to workplaces where inspectors identify potential safety risks.
WorkSafe operations manager Ms Lisa
Sturzenegger has indicated that the "blitz" will focus on
the following target industries:
wood product manufacturing
fabricated metal manufacturing
transport equipment manufacturing
road transport services
residential aged care services.
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 as possible. There are a number of
ways a prosecution may proceed and it is important that advice is
obtained on the options available to anaccused. A thorough review
of the evidence contained in the brief of evidence provided by
WorkSafe is necessary to determine the appropriate strategy moving
forward. This may involve:
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; and/or
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
legislation (approximately A$1.1 million per breach in Victoria), a
criminal conviction often has long lasting impacts on a company,
such as in circumstances where disclosure of convictions is
required when tendering for works.
To obtain advice regarding the process of a prosecution,
appropriate strategies following the receipt of charges,
information regarding WorkSafe inspectors' powers of entry or
to discuss the process for appealing notices issued by WorkSafe
inspectors, please contact our occupational health and safety
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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