Construction Firms Fined for WHS Breach

Construction industryConstruction company John Holland has been fined $360,000 over the death of a worker at the Perth City Link rail project. In December 2011, an employee on a John Holland site was hit and killed by an out-of-control hi-rail vehicle that had been built by John Holland Rail.

The Federal Court found two John Holland entities breached the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  When handing down his judgement, the Judge found both companies could have done more to ensure safety in the manufacture and operation of hi-rail vehicles.


“The need to remind the first and third respondents of the importance of constant vigilance in relation to workplace safety is particularly important, because the first and third respondents operate in an industry which on a daily basis requires their employees to carry out inherently dangerous activities or to operate, and work in the vicinity of, vehicles which have the propensity to put their lives at risk,” the judgement said.  “Constant vigilance was not present in the circumstances of this tragic case.  “The result was that a man lost his life.”

The Federal Government’s workplace safety statutory authority Comcare welcomed the finding.  In a statement, Comcare regulatory operations group general manager said the court’s decision was a reminder to employers about the need to prioritise health and safety standards at Australian workplaces.

“Workplace tragedies have far reaching consequences and together we can work towards reducing the number of fatalities in Australian workplaces to zero,” Mr Quarmby said.  Comcare said the maximum penalty available to the Federal Court was $484,000.

In Canberra a construction firm will be the first to contest a work safety charge in the ACT Supreme Court, over the death of a man at a Macgregor worksite in 2011.  The 45 year old man died after he was hit by a reversing grader at a Macgregor worksite.

Canberra Contractors has pleaded not guilty to allegations it was negligent because it failed to provide adequate safety training and supervision under the 2008 Work Safety Act.

It is the first time a company has contested such charges in the Supreme Court.  If found guilty the group could face a maximum fine of more than $1 million under 2008 legislation.  Under present legislation introduced in 2012, the company would potentially face a much larger fine over the alleged offence.

The company has been charged under old workplace legislation, because the incident happened before tough new national laws were introduced.  An alternative charge of recklessness has also been laid.  The case was one of three deaths to come before the ACT’s Industrial court in recent months, although it was not clear if any others would end up in the Supreme Court.  The case is expected to return to court later this month.  A coronial inquiry into Mr Vickery’s death has been put off until next year.


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