02/04/2020 - 15:36

Armadale hit with $110k fine

02/04/2020 - 15:36

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The City of Armadale has been hit with one of the largest fines imposed for a workplace safety breach in Western Australia, after state government agency WorkSafe appealed the penalty initially imposed over a 2014 incident.

The City of Armadale has been hit with one of the largest fines imposed for a workplace safety breach in Western Australia, after state government agency WorkSafe appealed the penalty initially imposed over a 2014 incident.

In a ruling handed down yesterday, the Court of Appeal said the fine imposed on the city should be increased from $30,000 (plus costs) to $110,000.

Since 2005, only seven groups have received larger fines for WorkSafe breaches.

The largest penalty, of $285,000, was imposed on the Department of Corrective Services and contractor G4S Custodial Services in 2011.

In the Armadale case, a member of the public unloading green waste at the Hilbert waste disposal site was struck by a front-end loader driven by a site supervisor employed by the city.

He suffered very serious injuries, resulting in him being unable to work.

WorkSafe said there had been several previous incidents involving mobile plant in City of Armadale workplaces and, more importantly, two WorkSafe notices had been issued and not adequately addressed.

“Furthermore, the day after the incident, the city was issued with a prohibition notice instructing the employer not to operate loaders near members of the public,” it said in a statement.

“CCTV footage showed that the practice continued despite the prohibition notice, leading to the City of Armadale being charged with failing to comply with the notice.”

WorkSafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh said today the successful appeal in this matter should send a strong message to WA employers.

The original $30,000 fine was imposed in April 2018, after the city was charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace.

WorkSafeWA initially appealed the penalty in a single judge appeal and was unsuccessful.

The Full Court of the Supreme Court found that the single judge erred in failing to find that the original fine of $30,000 was manifestly inadequate; the original decision was overturned and the city instead fined $110,000.

"Having regard to all of the relevant circumstances, particularly the objective seriousness of the offending, the need to properly punish and to provide general deterrence, and having regard to all of the mitigating factors, we have concluded that the fine imposed by the sentencing magistrate and upheld by the primary judge was more than merely lenient, it was manifestly inadequate, that is, it was unreasonable or plainly unjust," the Court of Appeal concluded. 

"General deterrence with the aim of protecting the public from the risk of serious injury resulting from obvious and easily remedied hazards is the paramount sentencing consideration.  

"In our opinion, a fine of $110,000 is the appropriate penalty, having regard to all of the relevant circumstances, including the mitigating factors."

The maximum possible fine for this offence was $400,000.

The city’s chief executive, Joanne Abbiss, said she was deeply sorry the incident occurred.

“No-one should be hurt in our facilities,” Ms Abbiss said in a statement.

“At the first available opportunity, when the case was initially heard in 2017, the city pleaded guilty to all charges and accepted accountability for the mistakes which were made in 2014.”

Ms Abbiss said the city’s landfill facility was built many years ago and activities were carried out in close proximity to public access. 

“We are committed to making significant changes to reduce the likelihood of an incident like this from occurring again, this includes council recently bringing forward funding to complete a separate public drop off area well away from the landfill activities.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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