Mullins Lawyers acts for workers’ compensation insurers responding to claims for damages for personal injuries suffered in the course of employment. As part of the process, we investigate why injuries occur.
In claims involving more serious injuries, sometimes the Department of Work Health and Safety has already investigated the event before we receive the claim; taking statements, issuing Improvement Notices and on some occasions, referring the matter for prosecution.
Every year, the Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor issues its annual report. The 2022 report makes for sobering reading.
Prosecutions can be initiated for breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011, the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, the Explosives Act 1999, the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999, the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, and the Electrical Safety Act 2002.
The Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor must consider whether to prosecute breaches of those Acts. In the 2022 financial year, 58 decisions were made to commence prosecutions against 35 bodies corporate and 23 individuals, and 126 decisions were made not to prosecute (due to insufficient evidence or not being in the public interest).
In the 2022 financial year, including matters which were already before the Court, 72 prosecutions were successful (representing more than 90% of prosecutions finalised) and more than $3.5 million in fines were imposed.
The 2022 report provides particulars of notable prosecutions which made headlines when the incidents occurred. Some of those events include a fatality when a worker became trapped in machinery at a factory at Narangba in 2020, an electrocution fatality when a crane contacted an overhead power line in Cairns in 2019, a fatality at a recycling plant in Rocklea in 2019, and a double fatality at a construction site at Eagle Farm in 2016.
The prosecutions are not limited to events causing injury or death to workers; they also extend to death or serious injury within the responsibility of a ”person conducting a business or undertaking”, such as two drowning fatalities at Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island in 2019, a zip line fatality at Cape Tribulation in 2019, a child fatality at an aquatic centre in Brisbane in 2019, and the drowning of a man and his five-year-old son at Airlie Beach in 2018.
Individual fines as high as $625,000 were issued in 2022 FY, and on one occasion, a director was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, wholly suspended for 12 months.
Make each day as safe as you can.