Last month, the Supreme Court of WA increased the quantum of a WorkSafe WA fine by 360% in relation to an incident where a member of the public was injured at a council waste depot.
Member of public struck at tip by loader – significant injuries
Employer had previously been issued with 2 notices re mobile plant incidents & the need to manage the risks of vehicle/plant/pedestrian interaction
Following the latest incident – prohibition notice issued, breached the following day (CCTV footage of breach)
Initial Worksafe WA release: (initial fine) https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/fines-total-59500-over-safety-breaches-causing-serious-injury-city-armadale-landfill
WorkSafe WA release following fine increase: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/city-armadale-fine-increased-after-worksafe-appeal
1. The penalties:
Given the apparent history on non-compliance with mobile plant related WorkSafe improvement notices, and the breach of a prohibition notice, it is surprising the initial and revised fines were not higher.
If the incident had have taken place following the new penalty provisions in October 2018, the fines are likely to have been considerably higher.
2. The failure to respond to improvement notices:
Receipt of an improvement notice from a regulator is an extremely serious matter, requiring immediate response and an action plan to rectify the situation
In our experience, reactions can sometimes be ineffectual. In some cases we have seen management fail to accept of allocate responsibility to rectify, or assume that someone else was taking care of it.
This can lead to a panic and the cost of rectification work increasing due to a lack of time.
3. On the importance of systematic risk assessment and control:
Application of the principles of risk assessment need to dictate the approach to identifying and managing key risks.
Allocation of resources to conduct audits and reviews of risks and risk management processes are critical.
Having a robust corrective action management process is also central to ensuring that gaps are closed in a timely manner based on risk.
We deal with hundreds of Councils around the Country, and those managing waste operations are acutely aware of the issues associated with plant, vehicle and pedestrians and the need for particular care in ensuring specific controls are in place on the plant and on the site to manage these risks.
4. On leadership and culture:
For safety systems to have any chance of working, there needs to be strong support and a strong mandate for its implementation and maintenance – from the top down.
Lip service is highly transparent – it is almost impossible for an organisation to develop a safety “conscience” if leadership is not visibly and genuinely supporting safety systems and culture.
We do not have an insight into leadership at the Council in question here, however it is reasonable to conclude that safety leadership at the site where the incident occurred was significantly flawed.
Plant & equipment safety will not be top of mind unless you consciously put it top of mind. In our experience, the organisations that manage it well are those who treat it as an integral part of fleet and operations management. They make it part of their daily diet, not something that is done when an audit is due.
Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.