In the very first case of its kind an ACT based company officer has been personally charged under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT)(WHS Act). It is the first prosecution of its kind and serves as a harsh warning to other safety officers about the seriousness of their duties and the consequences of failing in these duties.
The officer, Mr al-Hasani from Kenoss Constractors was charged over a safety incident that resulted in a worker fatality in March 2 years ago. WorkSafe ACT has charged both al-Hasani and Kenoss Contractors over the tragic incident.
WorkSafe ACT reiterated that this case proves how seriousness authorities are about safety and that they are willing to prosecute not only companies but individuals in senior management roles over workplace incidents, especially if their actions result in workers’ injuries and fatalities. Employers as well as senior management must be aware of their obligations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act and fulfil these obligations.
The accident which resulted in the accident and the subsequent fatality and charges occurred in March 2012 when Michael Booth, a truck driver employed by the company died when he suffered an electric shock. The 48 year old man was operating a tip truck at the time when the elevated trailer of the truck made contact with an over-head power line.
According to a post on Mondaq.com the charges against the officer were as follows
The Officer faces two charges under s 32 of the WHS Act for failing to comply with a health and safety duty. Section 32 provides that a person commits a category 2 offence if that person has a health and safety duty that they fail to comply with, and that failure exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury. A category 2 offence carries a maximum penalty of $300,000 for an officer.
According to WorkSafe, the officer as well as the company failed to comply with its obligations resulting in the death and the charges. The officer’s duty was to ensure that the company complied with its obligations, which include (according to Mondaq.com)
…to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers while at work, including the provision and maintenance of:
- a work environment without risks to health and safety, and
- safe systems of work.
The due diligence steps that the Officer was required to take to ensure the PCBU complied with its s 19 obligations, include to:
- acquire and maintain up-to-date knowledge on WHS matters
- gain an understanding of the nature of the PCBU operations and the hazards and risks associated with those operations
- ensure the PCBU has, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks
- ensure the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information on incidents, hazards and risks, and responds in a timely way to that information, and
- ensure the PCBU implements processes for complying with its obligations under the WHS Act.
The officer has pleaded not guilty to the charges but WorkSafe and ACT Work Safety Commissioner, Mark McCabe stated that this case should serve as an important reminder to officers about the need to maintain a safe work environment and comply with workplace health and safety regulations.