Failure to report health and safety incident incurs $25,000 fine04 July 2017
A recent Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) prosecution is a timely reminder that persons conducting a business or undertaking must report a health and safety incident or they may be prosecuted, fined and have a criminal conviction recorded against them.
In this decision, KFS Fuel Services Pty Ltd was prosecuted for failing to report an incident to WHSQ where a worker suffered a compound skull fracture and brain injury while completing pressure testing on a road fuel tanker. WHSQ became aware of the incident 17 months later when it was notified by lawyers acting for the injured worker.
The Magistrate found there was a serious breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (WHSA) given the Defendant was aware of its obligation to notify WHSQ under the legislation. The situation was exacerbated because the injured worker's stepfather was a managing director of the company.
The Prosecutor submitted that the Defendant's actions had stifled any chance of a proper investigation for a breach of the safety obligations under the WHSA. Magistrate Lee found there was a breach and fined the Defendant $25,000 (the maximum fine under the legislation is $50,000), ordered professional and court costs be paid totalling $2,000, and a criminal conviction recorded. This fine could have been increased had there been an ongoing safety concern at the company while the prosecution was underway.
Employers should take this cue to re-familiarise themselves with the WHSA. It is important to remember that a workplace incident must be reported if it arises out of the conduct of a business or undertaking and results in the fatality, serious injury or illness of a person, or if it involves a "dangerous incident". It would also be prudent for employers to refresh their understanding of the obligations around not disturbing the site of the incident so far as reasonably practicable, until an inspector arrives at the site.
A conviction may have serious consequences for future tendering and insurance for corporations and individuals, so it is in the employer and company's best interests to report such incidents as soon as they happen.