WA company fined over injuries sustained from Cyclone George

Wednesday, 03 November, 2010

Western Australian engineering firm Laing O’Rourke (BMC) has been fined $90,000 on charges relating to the injury of two workers during Cyclone George in 2007.

In August, Justice Murray set aside an earlier acquittal of Laing O’Rourke on two charges after WorkSafe launched an appeal in the Supreme Court.

The first charge was for failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee when his donga broke free during Cyclone George.

The second charge was for failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment for an employee of contractor A B Reinforcing in a matter over which Laing O’Rourke had control.

Justice Murray convicted Laing O’Rourke on the two charges, and handed down the penalty after considering sentence submissions from both parties. Laing O’Rourke - who was undertaking track and bridge work as part of the construction of a rail line - failed to provide adequate safety procedures to be followed during the event of a cyclone for both its employees and employees of the contracting company.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne welcomed the Supreme Court decision, stating: “The result of this case should send a strong message to all employers that workplace safety and health should be given high priority. It also underlines the fact that the responsibility for providing and maintaining a safe environment may extend to the employees of a contractor.

“Cyclone season officially begins soon, so this is a timely reminder that employers need to have adequate plans and provide adequate training to protect workers in the event of a cyclone.

“The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a higher than normal risk of a cyclone before this Christmas and a greater number of cyclones in the waters off the north-west coast this season, so the need for adequate preparation is crucial.

“The events surrounding Cyclone George were tragic, and cases like this should serve as a warning to ensure that this type of tragedy never happens again.”

Laing O’Rourke has appealed the conviction to the Court of Appeal.

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