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A Welshpool Sheet Metal Fabrication Company has received the Second Highest ever PENALTY of $650,000 in Western Australia for Breaching the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (“OSH Act”) and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.

NOTE: the new Work Health and Safety Act 2020  (“WHS Act”) will take effect once the industry regulations have been finalised which is anticipated towards the end of 2022.

  1. PGQW Pty Ltd (previously known as Boxline Industries Pty Ltd) (“PGQW”) and its manager, Bradley Michael Shackleton (“Mr Shackleton”), have been fined over a 2018 incident that left an employee with 30% burns to his body, including his face, ear, chest, arms, stomach, torso and both thighs.
  2. PGQW pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the workplace had Material Safety Data Sheets available; and failing to ensure there was adequate labelling of a hazardous substance. PGQW was sentenced to a global fine of $600,000 and ordered to pay $2,682.50 in costs.
  3. Mr Shackleton received a fine of $50,000 and ordered to pay $2,682.50 in costs.

Incident that took place

  1. In November 2018, an employee of PGQW did not receive adequate induction, training or supervision or receive or wear appropriate personal protective equipment, whilst applying kerosene from an unlabelled plastic bottle that splashed onto his clothing while he was orbital sanding around 30 metal sheets.
  2. On the following day, the employee wore the same shirt as the day before that had been contaminated with kerosene when he was welding shipping container locking handles. Soon after commencing welding, he felt his shirt get hot, when he lifted his face mask he noticed his shirt had caught on fire which subsequently spread to his pants.  The time it took to locate the fire extinguisher the employee had suffered burns to 30% of his body.

PGQW Safety systems

  1. At the time of the incident, PGQW did not have any safe systems in place for orbital sanding with kerosene and failed to provide adequate induction, training or supervision to its employees.
  2. PGQW received prior Improvement Notices for providing insufficient safety induction, training and adequate labelling of hazardous substances.
  3. Commissioner Darren Kavanagh from WorkSafe WA stated the case was an unfortunate example for a workplace that did not provide any sort of protection for workers despite the fact that safe alternatives were available and simple to implement.

Managers Accountability

  1. Despite the fact that WorkSafe inspectors had visited the premises on several occasions and had issued a large number of notices, Mr Shackleton who at the time of the incident, managed the workplace and was aware of the lack of induction, training, and supervision, nevertheless, he failed to take any action to remedy the situation.
  2. By failing to take action, Mr Shackleton was found guilty for the reason that he was responsible for managing the workplace and thereby “consented to the actions that contributed to the hazard and neglected to take action to make the workplace safer for employees”.

PGQW and Manager Penalised

  1. This case was prosecuted as a category 3 offence under the OSH Act with the maximum penalty that the court could have imposed on PGQW was $2,000,000 and $400,000 on Mr Shackleton.
  2. However, the level of penalty imposed by the court on PGQW and Mr Shackleton signifies the seriousness of the neglect involved by the company and the manager and the fact that a young man suffered 30% burns to his body.

What does this mean for Companies?

  1. Now is the time for companies to take the necessary steps to implement and/or ensure that your workplace safety systems meet the requisite guidelines under the new WHS Act.
  2. Whilst the new WHS Act has not come into effect yet, offences of this type will significantly be increased with companies who have a similar offence may be fined up to $3,500,000 and managers being convicted of 5 years imprisonment and facing a maximum fine of $340,000.
  3. For further details on the new WHS Act please see “Employment Law Update – The casual Employment Dilemma Fixed … Well Kind of” by our Matthew Morgan.

If you have any queries regarding how we can help you deal with the new WHS Act requirements please feel free to contact Kathleen Temmen of our office on (08) 9336 7511 or E: KathleenT@ma.legal