Supreme Court overrules joint OHS appeal

Thursday, 24 July, 2008

A key point of law for prosecuting serious breaches of workplace safety laws has been clarified by the South Australian Supreme Court recently, in its dismissal of a joint appeal against OHS charges.

In a decision delivered last Thursday, the Chief Justice John Doyle and Justices Gray and White unanimously dismissed a joint appeal lodged by Santos Limited and Diemould Tooling Services.

Both companies were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986, and are yet to plead. However, they jointly appealed on a legal technicality based on how the prosecution had drafted the charges on the complaints filed against them.

Diemould faces one charge of breaching the Act over the death of 18-year-old apprentice Daniel Madeley in June 2004. Madeley was fatally injured when caught in the spinning shaft of a horizontal borer at the company’s Edwardstown premises.

Santos faces eight counts of breaching various sections of the Act following the Moomba gas facility incident on 1 January 2004. Santos also faces a charge under the Dangerous Substances Act 1979 for the same incident.

Whether the companies will apply for leave to appeal to the High Court is not yet known.

SafeWork SA executive director Michele Patterson said this is the second major legal issue decided in the agency’s favour in the last 12 months.

“The definition of ‘reasonably practicable’ in terms of an employers’ safety responsibility was cleared up last year, and we also welcome this latest decision,” she said.

“Our success in these matters can provide assurance to South Australians that their workplace safety laws provide a strong foundation upon which we can prosecute any alleged wrongdoing.”


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