WorkSafe WA lays first charges under new WHS laws

Monday, 20 May, 2024

WorkSafe WA lays first charges under new WHS laws

WorkSafe WA has taken legal action against four breaches of the state’s work health and safety law in its first round of prosecutions under the recently passed legislation. The new Work Health and Safety Act 2020 came into effect in March 2022.

Wesbeam Pty Ltd, a manufacturer of engineered wood products, has been charged with failing in its duty while in control of plant and consequently causing serious harm to an individual. In April 2020, an operator at Wesbeam’s Neerabup factory was clearing a blockage on a conveyor belt when his arm was dragged into an unguarded section, resulting in injuries requiring extensive medical treatment. The maximum penalty for this offence is a $3.5 million fine and the matter will be addressed in Joondalup Magistrates Court on 7 June.

Haulage and crushing contractor MLG OZ Ltd and mine operator Evolution Mining (Mungari) Pty Ltd have both been charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee. A heavy diesel mechanic’s arm was allegedly crushed when he was attempting to clear an obstruction near an unguarded roller of a mobile stacker at a gold mine west of Kalgoorlie in April 2022. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $3.5 million and the matter will be addressed at Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court on 24 June.

Justin John Collins has been charged with carrying out work when he was not authorised to carry out that class of work. It is alleged that in April 2022, Collins removed 41 metres of asbestos fencing from between two houses in Beckenham. A fencing installer then discovered pieces of asbestos remaining in the ground and the matter was reported to WorkSafe. It was discovered that Collins did not hold an asbestos removal licence. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $25,000 and the first mention took place in Perth Magistrates Court on 10 May.

Acting WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North said these four cases saw the commencement of court action under the state’s new work health and safety laws, adding that the new legislation carries additional and more serious penalties than the previous laws.

“This is illustrated by the potential maximum fine of $3.5 million in three of these cases, but more serious breaches may risk penalties including terms of imprisonment for individuals. It’s disappointing that workers continue to suffer serious or permanent injuries due to failure by employers to comply with their obligations under work health and safety laws. The potential consequences of failing to ensure a safe and healthy workplace are now more serious than they have ever been, and I encourage everyone with work health and safety duties to be proactive in managing risks,” North said.

Image credit: Minaz

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