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In a first for Australia, Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd (BAR) was convicted of industrial manslaughter and fined $3million dollars after the employer and its two directors were found to have lied about how a worker died.

The Facts

In essence:

  • the worker was struck by a forklift in BAR’s Rocklea wrecking yard and died from his injuries
  • BAR had a system of issuing verbal safety instructions to workers
  • the operator of the forklift was unlicensed and unskilled, and this was unknown to the directors
  • the directors told paramedics and the worker’s daughter that the worker had sustained injuries in a fall, but the daughter obtained CCTV footage of the incident and contacted Police

What is Industrial Manslaughter?

In essence:

  • the offence of industrial manslaughter occurs when a business or person negligently causes the death of a worker
  • the offence exists in the ACT, Queensland and Victoria, whilst in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania employers can be prosecuted for workplace fatalities under general workplace safety laws

The Outcome

In essence:

  • BAR was convicted and fined $3million
  • the two directors of BAR were sentenced to 10 months imprisonment (but suspended on the proviso that the defendant not commit another offence punishable by imprisonment within a 20 month period)
  • amongst other things, the court stated “the defendants had no safety systems in place, in particular there was no traffic management plan” and “steps to prevent the incident involved only minor inconvenience and little, if any, cost

Take Action

The decision reiterates the critical importance of ensuring workplace health and safety and the risks for both the business and directors in respect of any non-compliance

It also serves as a timely reminder that businesses must ensure they address and meet (and ideally exceed) all of their workplace health and safety obligations including ensuring:

  • all directors, managers and workers are aware of their respective workplace health and safety responsibilities
  • there are robust, proper and documented safety systems in place
  • regular safety audits occur to identify risks and then addressing those risks
  • supervision, training and safety equipment is provided to workers

More Information

Please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team on 9635 7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers if you require any assistance or advice.