A company director and his firm have each been convicted and fined $100,000 after a worker’s death in August 2006.
It’s the first time a company director has been convicted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the highest penalty ever imposed on an individual under the Act.
Judge Liz Gaynor said Manumatic Industries Pty Ltd and its director Stanley Guthrie were “utterly negligent” in failing to have appropriate safety systems in place.
Frank Grima of Watsonia North died from head injuries while working near a machine that bent pipes for vehicle exhaust systems when it was inadvertently started by a co-worker.
Guthrie had directed Grima to make several drip trays to put under the machine to catch leaking oil.
Judge Gaynor said Guthrie and the company had a “grave dereliction” in their obligations, and that Grima may not have died if the machine was properly guarded.
The court was told:
· a laser light curtain which would have prevented the machine starting while Grima was near it was not correctly positioned;
· there was no system to ensure the machine could not be started if people were working near it,
·there was no system to warn employees who got near the machine that it might start.
The company and Guthrie each pleaded guilty to workplace health and safety charges. Judge Gaynor said Guthrie was remorseful and that safety improvements were made after Grima’s death.
WorkSafe’s Executive Director, John Merritt, said the sentencing reinforced the need for company directors to take active steps to ensure their workplaces were safe.
“This case should send a strong and clear message to the thousands of directors in Victoria who have a day-to-day responsibility for safety in the workplaces and the sites they control.”
Today’s sentencing follows the launch of a new WorkSafe advertising campaign.
Merritt said the campaign reinforced the ‘moral right’ of workers to return home safely every day.
“At this time of year when many Victorian Christmas dinners will be missing someone, this sentence and campaign are reminders that workplace injuries don’t take holidays.
“At any time, but particularly now when many workplaces are at their busiest, every business and worker has to do all they can to ensure high safety standards are applied.
“Employers must take exceptional care to ensure their people are properly trained, supervised and working in a safe way.”
Merritt said there would be a new wave of risk in coming weeks when many businesses begin annual maintenance, servicing and repairs, equipment installation and cleaning projects.
“Like Grima, those workers and businesses will be at risk if safety standards are not in place and maintained.
“People need to concentrate on what they’re doing, not what they might be doing tonight, at the weekend or on their well-deserved break.”
The charges: Manumatic Industries Pty Ltd One charge under each of Sections 21(b) and (e) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Section 21 – Duties of employers to employees
(1) An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
(2) Without limiting sub-section (1), an employer contravenes that sub-section if the employer fails to do any of the following— (b) make arrangements for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances.
AND (e) provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
Stanley Guthrie — Director of Manumatic Industries Pty Ltd One charge under Section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 Section 26 – Duties of persons who manage or control workplaces (
(1) A person who (whether as an owner or otherwise) has, to any extent, the management or control of a workplace must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.
(2) The duties of a person under sub-section (1) apply only in relation to matters over which the person has management or control.
(3) An offence against sub-section (1) is an indictable offence.