Prosecutions

Victoria: Principal contractor fined for falling object 
Hickory Collins House Pty Ltd, the principal contractor of a 58 storey high rise residential building in Collins Street, Melbourne also had management and control of the workplace. On 28 February 2019 a 32 kilogram DOKA prop, which was being removed by a worker, fell from Level 56 and landed on an amenities shed on Level 3, a drop of approximately 160 metres. The western boundary and north western corner of Level 56 was protected by a 1.2 metre precast wall which failed to prevent the 2775mm long prop which was top heavy, from falling over the edge from its position when being removed.

While the outcome could have been serious injuries or even fatalities, no injuries occurred as a result of the incident. 

The Melbourne Magistrates' Court found the company failed to reduce the risk to health and safety in several ways, including installing additional precast panels on top of the existing western boundary and north west boundary precast panels. 

Hickory Collins House pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000 plus $7,412 costs. 

To check for more Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.  

Queensland: Owner gets record jail time for industrial manslaughter

A business owner will spend at least 18 months in jail – a record under Australian workplace health and safety laws – after being found guilty of the industrial manslaughter of his friend, in a case which highlights the broad meaning of "worker" under the Work Health Act.

In the Queensland District Court, Jeffrey Owen was sentenced to five years' jail, suspended after 18 months of actual prison time for an operational period of five years. 

In July 2019, Owen was using a forklift to unload a heavy generator from a flatbed truck at his business – Owen's Electric Motor Rewinds, in Gympie – when the generator fell from the tines and landed on and fatally crushed his adult male friend, who was helping with the task.

In late 2020, after a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation, Owen was charged with industrial manslaughter under section 34C of the State Work Health and Safety Act 2011, as a person conducting a business or undertaking, as opposed to a "senior officer". 

This week, WHSQ noted this was the first time an individual had been prosecuted, convicted and jailed for industrial manslaughter since the offence was introduced in Queensland in 2017. 

The regulator said Owen caused his friend's death by negligently operating the forklift:

  • he was not licensed to drive the machine,
  • its lifting capacity was not adequate enough to be used for unloading the generator from the truck, and
  • the business did not have any documented health and safety procedures, in particular for using the forklift to unload heavy equipment.

District Court Judge Glen Cash heard safe alternative methods for unloading the generator were available at low cost. He found Owen's sentence needed to reflect punishment, general and personal deterrence, and denunciation, as well as his personal circumstances and his remorse. 
Source: OHS Alert

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