Australia: Inside track: Work Health & Safety: Recent media releases, reports, cases and legislation

Last Updated: 19 December 2018
Article by Charles Power, Benjamin Marshall, Stephen Trew, Michael Selinger and Rachel Drew

Most Read Contributor in Australia, December 2018

In the media

Punchbowl plumbing company fined after fatal worker fall
A plumbing business in Punchbowl has been fined $75,000 after a worker fatally fell more than eight metres through a warehouse roof. Safe Work Executive Director, Tony Williams, said Opcon Plumbing Pty Ltd was sentenced this month at the Sydney District Court for failing to comply with health and safety laws (07 December 2018). More...

Blitz results in improved construction safety
A 12-month construction industry blitz aimed at reducing falls from heights has resulted in improved working at heights safety and compliance. "SafeWork inspectors issued 1,258 notices to stop or improve work processes throughout the visits, which included 93 on-the-spot fines when the falls risk to workers was imminent or serious, or if the workplace was a repeat offender (07 December 2018). More...

Protecting bodies and minds against pre-holiday stresses
With the end of year fast approaching, ensuring your workers stay physically safe and mentally healthy is critical to avoiding unnecessary and costly injuries. WorkCover Queensland Executive said if employers are intending to hire temporary workers, delivering full safety inductions and training will ensure they are not performing unsafe work practices (06 December 2018). More...

Burwood construction company fined $210,000 for poor safety
A Burwood building company has been fined $210,000 for failing to comply with multiple SafeWork NSW warnings to improve safety practices. Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said Chiew Meng Ng, a director of the company, was also fined $42,500 for failing to comply with his responsibilities (06 December 2018). More...

Safety warning issues after toxic chemical released at public swimming pool
Safework NSW has issued an urgent safety warning after a worker at a public swimming pool in Picton incorrectly mixed chemicals, releasing toxic chlorine gas and injuring several swimming pool patrons. Preliminary findings indicate the two chemicals were a chlorine-releasing salt called dry chlorine and sodium bisulphate (06 December 2018). More...

Three workers crushed in accident on Gold Cost Jewel development site
Three men have been crushed in a workplace accident at the site of the $1 billion high-rise Jewel development on the Gold Coast. Developer Multiplex had drastically reduced the work of some contractors, and the union was concerned hundreds other jobs were being put at risk (05 December 2018). More...

Failure to protect young worker costs timber company dearly
A timber company has been fined $60,000 for failing to protect a young inexperienced worker who lost a thumb and three fingers following a workplace incident on 7 October 2015. At a sentence hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, the company was found to have failed its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 as a duty holder to protect the teenage employee (05 December 2018). More...

$80,000 fine imposed after workplace incident results in amputation
Inadequate supervision and training for a young worker has been blamed for a workplace incident which resulted in an inexperienced labourer having his hand amputated. The court also heard supervision and training of the worker was inadequate and not what was detailed in the New Employee Development Program (05 December 2018). More...

Prawn boss calls on industry to lift its game to avoid more deaths, injuries at sea
The owner of Australia's largest prawn trawler fleet has called for action on safety, with statistics showing fishing boats are a more dangerous workplace than mining and construction (05 December 2018). More...

Labourer dies after falling from ladder
A 21-year-old labourer has died after falling from a ladder at a residential property in Bendigo. The fatality brings the number of confirmed workplace deaths this year to 23, compared to 24 at the same time last year (03 December 2018). More...

NSW Quarry Services convicted and fined $30000 for breaching Work Health & Safety laws
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment's Resources Regulator has welcomed a court decision to convict and fine NSW Quarry Services Pty Ltd $30,000 for failing to report two dangerous roll-over incidents to the Regulator. NSW Quarry Services was also ordered to pay the Regulator's legal costs, agreed between the parties to be $25,000 (03 December 2018). More...

Heavy fine for Newcrest Mining Limited over Cadia mine death
Newcrest Mining Ltd has been convicted and fined $450,000 following a prosecution by the Department of Planning and Environment's Resources Regulator over the death of a worker at the underground Ridgway Mine at Cadia near Orange in 2015. Newcrest was convicted of a Category 2 offence for failing to comply with a health and safety duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (03 December 2018). More...

Queensland abattoir fined $200,000 following death of labourer
An Queensland abbatoir has been fined in the Maryborough Magistrates Court after it failed to ensure the health and safety of a worker and exposed him to the risk of death. The court heard that no risk assessment, engineering or independent certification had been undertaken or was in place (03 December 2018). More...

Agriculture farm fined $200,000 for powerline death
A North Queensland agriculture farm has been fined $200,000 in the Cairns Magistrate Court for the electrocution of an overseas worker in 2016. Magistrate Kevin Priestly delivered the findings, making mention of the fact that workers had been given verbal reminders about the powerlines prior to the incident, but this was deemed inadequate (03 December 2018). More...

New chemical storage guide for workplaces released
Safe Work Australia has released a new guide to help workplaces store their chemicals safely. The guide will help small to medium businesses to safely store chemicals in their workplace (30 November 2018). More...

Building company fined for failing on fall risks
An Ocean Grove building company has been fined $52,500 to four contraventions of section 21 of the OHS Act, without conviction for safety breaches that exposed workers, including three apprentices to the risk of serious injury from falls from height. Le Maistre Builders was also ordered to pay $4239.30 in costs (29 November 2018). More...

Oil refinery charged for safety breaches
Oil refinery operator Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd has been charged by WorkSafe after two workers were exposed to hydrofluoric acid leaks in separate incidents last year. Viva has been charged with a total of 11 contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act following the incidents at its Corio refinery (28 November 2018). More...

Published - articles, papers, reports

Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As at 29 November, there have been 115 Australian workers killed at work in 2018. The numbers and industries may vary from one report to the next, as Safe Work receives more detailed information. More...

In practice and courts

ABCC e-alert: Compliance with work health and safety laws
The Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 (the Code) encourages the development of safe, healthy, fair, lawful and productive building sites for the benefit of all building industry participants (04 December 2018). More...

SafeWork Australia Guidance Materials: Managing risks of storing chemicals in the workplace
This chemical storage guide will help small to medium businesses to safely store chemicals in their workplace. It outlines some of the common health and safety risks of storing chemicals and shows you ways to manage those risks (28 November 2018). More...

National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces
The focus of the national inquiry is on the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, the drivers of this harassment and measures to address sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. To assist interested parties to develop submissions to the inquiry, the Australian Human Rights Commission has also prepared a Conversation toolkit. Submissions close on 31 January 2019. More... More...

The National Inquiry team will also be conducting public consultations in the following locations:
Sydney and Albury-Wodonga – week commencing 11 February 2019

Queensland

Worker survives irrespirable atmosphere | Business Queensland
04 December 2018; Mines safety alert 360
A pump fitter entered the unventilated heading in a light vehicle and experienced difficulties due to an oxygen deficient, excess carbon dioxide atmosphere. More...

Lightning strikes on rubber-tyred vehicles | Business Queensland
27 November 2018; Mines safety bulletin 176
During lightning storms, heavy, rubber-tyred vehicles should not be recommended as a place of safety. More...

Victoria

Work Safe Victoria: Fatal fall while installing solar panels
WorkSafe is currently investigating this incident and reminds employers of risk control requirements applicable to fall hazards typically associated with solar panel installation on residential premises. Fall hazards and risks typically associated with solar panel installation on residential premises broadly fall into three categories. Each has a number of risk control recommendations (05 December 2018). More...

Latest Safety Soapbox- 30 November 2018
WorkSafe's Senior Construction Advisor Tony Cockerell reminds builders and contractors to start thinking now about what they need to do to make their sites and workplaces safe over the holiday period. Read a list of reported incidents here.

Cases

Stephen James Orr v Newcrest Mining Limited [2018] NSWDC 370
CRIME – prosecution – work health and safety – duty of persons undertaking business – duty of employers – risk of death or serious injury – death of employee SENTENCING – aggravating factors – mitigating factors – objective seriousness – general deterrence – specific deterrence – substantial harm, injury, loss or damage – victim impact statement – good prospects of rehabilitation – plea of guilty – assistance to law enforcement – remorse WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY – documented safe work procedure exposed workers to risk COSTS – prosecution costs OTHER – mobile water cannons used to clear blockages in underground mine – water cannon procedure required workers to walk between plant and mine wall – falling rocks impacting with plant created crush hazard – worker crushed between plant and mine wall.

Unity Pty Ltd v SafeWork NSW [2018] NSWCCA 266
CRIME – conviction appeal – offence of failing to ensure health and safety of workers by exposing individual to a risk of death or serious injury – whether defendant convicted of offence other than that particularised – whether measure to ensure health and safety particularised by prosecutor reasonably practicable – Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW), ss 19, 32 EMPLOYMENT AND INDUSTRIAL LAW – industrial safety, health and welfare – worker suffered serious injuries following electrocution – defendants charged with failure to ensure health and safety of workers by exposing individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness – defendants convicted, but injuries suffered by worker not manifestation of risk pleaded – finding not challenged on appeal – whether trial judge erred in making finding of low objective seriousness – whether trial judge erred in failing to take injury of worker into account as aggravating factor – whether sentence manifestly inadequate – Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW), ss 19, 32 SENTENCING – aggravating factors – substantial harm, injury, loss or damage – offence of failing to ensure health and safety of workers by exposing individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness – where worker's injury would not have occurred had defendants taken measures which should have been taken – whether worker's injuries should be taken into account as aggravating factor in sentencing SENTENCING – prosecution appeal – residual discretion – delay – appeal lodged more than eight months after orders entered –internal bureaucratic processes relied upon as justification for delay –whether defendants suffered prejudice as a result of delay – relevance of defendants being corporate entities rather than natural persons – whether delay engaged discretion not to intervene SENTENCING – prosecution appeal – mitigating factors – remorse – prosecutor contended defendant was sympathetic but not remorseful – remorse insufficient to establish mitigating factor under Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW), 21A(3)(i) – whether trial judge erred by taking remorse into account.

Simon Anthony Green Wilkeen Pty Ltd T/as Razorback Glass v SafeWork NSW [2018] NSWIRComm 1074
WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY – improvement notice – confirmed on internal review – external review – contravention admitted – work ceased - new systems immediately introduced - delay before issuing improvement notice – existence of reasonable belief that contravention will continue or be repeated.

Victoria Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings

  • Alfred Health
    Moorabbin Magistrates' Court Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 Section 21(1)&(2)(e)
    Outcome 05 Dec 2018
  • Swiffscaff Pty Ltd
    Melbourne Magistrates' Court Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 Section section 31
    Outcome 26 Nov 2018

Legislation

Queensland

Subordinate legislation as made – 30 November 2018
No 208 Work Health and Safety (Codes of Practice) (Respirable Coal Dust Hazards) Amendment Notice 2018

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

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