Breaching the Work Health and Safety Act
An employer has been fined $87,500 by the NSW District Court, after an incident where an employee fell 12 metres on a unit construction site. This decision highlights the need for employers to:
- understand their employment law obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act;
- put in place work health and safety manuals and policies in line with workplace law; and
- ensure employees are trained, understand and are implementing the relevant work health and safety manuals and policies.
In Safe Work (NSW) v JSN Hanna Pty Ltd, the employer plead guilty for failing to comply with its duty under the Work Health and Safety Act and exposing employees to a risk of death or serious injury.
- was instructed to undertake work on a bay extension scaffold, which was not properly protected;
- placed his foot onto a piece of timber, which was not intended to be used as a platform. The piece of timber gave way and led to the employee falling 12 metres to the ground; and
- sustained head and neck injuries as a result of the fall.
The employer accepted that they had breached workplace law, by failing to:
- maintain the scaffolding at a safe standard;
- ensure their employees were not working at a height, without adequate fall protection; and
- ensure their employees had been trained in the relevant safe work procedures.
The Court considered a number of mitigating factors in the employers favour, when considering what sentence to impose on the employer for its breach of the Work Health and Safety Act, including:
- there was no substantial injury or harm caused to the employee;
- the employer had no prior convictions, despite having operated the business since 2006, and previously operating as a partnership for 46 years;
- the employer was of good character and had a good reputation in the industry as a safe and responsible employer;
- the employer was unlikely to reoffend and had already taken steps to improve safety practices and policies;
- the employer had demonstrated remorse; and
- the employer had plead guilty.
The employer was fined $100,000 by the Court for their breach of employment law. This amount was reduced to $87,500, due to the employer pleading guilty. The employer was also ordered to pay the costs of the prosecutor.
Tips for Employers
This decision highlights the need for employers to:
- review your safety policies and procedures and ensure they are in line with your employer obligations, under work health and safety law;
- If in doubt, seek advice from a work health and safety lawyer, in order to ensure compliance with workplace law;
- ensure that staff have undertaken extensive work health and safety training;
- conduct spot checks, in order to ensure that employees are working in compliance with the safety requirements imposed by workplace law; and
- make workplace health and safety compliance an essential condition of contracts with sub-contractors.
To read the full decision of the District Court in this case click here(link is external).
If you have any questions in relation to this article or if you would like any assistance in other employment law matters including work health and safety law or employment contracts, please feel free to speak with or email one of our specialist employment lawyers on (02) 9635 7966 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DISCLAIMER: This article is provided to clients and readers for their general information and on a complimentary basis. It contains a brief summary only and should not be relied upon or used as definitive or complete statement of the relevant workplace law.
  NSWDC 117.