WA: first charges under new WHS laws

WorkSafe has initiated the first four prosecutions under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020, which came into effect in March 2022.

Wesbeam, a manufacturer of engineered wood product, has been charged with failing in its duty while in control of plant and consequently causing serious harm to an individual.

WorkSafe will allege that in April 2022, an operator at Wesbeam’s Neerabup factory was clearing a blockage on a conveyor belt when his arm was dragged into an unguarded section, resulting in serious injuries requiring extensive medical treatment.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a $3.5 million fine, and first mention recently took place in Joondalup Magistrates Court.

Haulage and crushing contractor MLG OZ and mine operator Evolution Mining (Mungari) have both been charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee.

WorkSafe will allege that a heavy diesel mechanic’s arm was crushed when he was attempting to clear an obstruction near an unguarded roller of a mobile stacker at a gold mine west of Kalgoorlie in April 2022.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $3.5 million, with the first mention taking place in Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court on 24 June.

Justin Collins has been charged with carrying out work when he was not authorised to carry out that class of work.

It is alleged that in April 2022, Mr Collins removed 41 metres of asbestos fencing from between two houses in Beckenham.

After a fencing installer discovered pieces of asbestos remaining in the ground, the matter was reported to WorkSafe WA and it was found that Collins did not hold an asbestos removal licence.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $25,000, and the first mention took place in Perth Magistrates Court on 10 May.

“The WHS laws carry additional and more serious penalties than the previous laws,” said Acting WorkSafe WA Commissioner Sally North.

“This is illustrated by the potential maximum fine of $3.5 million in three of these cases, but more serious breaches may risk penalties including terms of imprisonment for individuals.

“It’s disappointing that workers continue to suffer serious or permanent injuries due to failure by employers to comply with their obligations under WHS laws.

“The potential consequences of failing to ensure a safe and healthy workplace are now more serious than they have ever been, and I encourage everyone with work health and safety duties to be proactive in managing risks.”