A company director and his firm have each been convicted and fined $100,000 after a worker’s death in August 2006. It is the first time a company director has been convicted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the highest penalty ever imposed on an individual under the Act. WorkSafe Victoria quote a court trial against Manumatic Industries with regard to workplace safety.
According to Judge Liz Gaynor, Manumatic Industries and their director Stanley Guthrie were “utterly negligent” in failing to have appropriate safety systems in place. Frank Grima of Watsonia North died from head injuries while working near a machine that bent pipes for vehicle exhaust systems when it was inadvertently started by a co-worker. Stanley Guthrie had directed Frank Grima to make several drip trays to put under the machine to catch leaking oil.
Judge Gaynor said Guthrie and the company had a “grave dereliction” in their obligations, and that Frank Grima may not have died if the machine was properly guarded. The court was told:
- A laser light curtain which would have prevented the machine starting while Frank Grima was near it was not correctly positioned
- There was no system to ensure the machine could not be started if people were working near it
- There was no system to warn employees who got near the machine that it might start
The company and Guthrie each pleaded guilty to workplace health and safety charges. Judge Gaynor said Guthrie was remorseful and that safety improvements were made after Grima’s death.
According to John Merritt, Executive Director, WorkSafe Victoria, the sentencing reinforced the need for company directors to take active steps to ensure their workplaces were safe. This case should send a strong and clear message to the thousands of directors in Victoria who have a day-to-day responsibility for safety in the workplaces and the sites they control.
WorkSafe had launched a new WorkSafe advertising campaign to highlight safety at work place. According to Merritt, the WorkSafe advertising campaign reinforced the 'moral right' of workers to return home safely every day.
Even when many workplaces are at their busiest, every business and worker has to do all they can to ensure high safety standards are applied and the workers should return home safely every day. Employers must take exceptional care to ensure their people are properly trained, supervised and working in a safe way.