18 November 2016
Benjamin Urry, Associate Director
You may be aware of recent reports of a serious incident that occurred last month in which two construction workers were killed, and which has resulted in their supervisor being charged with two counts of manslaughter.
This incident highlights that businesses, including directors and supervisors, need to be aware that safety incidents can result not only in payments of compensation for victims, but can also result in breaches of health and safety laws (carrying significant financial penalties) or even criminal manslaughter charges with lengthy imprisonment terms.
Fatalities at Eagle Farm Racecourse
On 6 October 2016, two construction workers working at Eagle Farm Racecourse were killed when two concrete slabs surrounding a drainage pit they were working in collapsed. The two workers appeared to have managed to avoid being crushed by the first slab by climbing out of the pit in the only way available to them (being a steel ladder), but unfortunately they were unable to avoid being crushed by the second slab.
Following initial investigations into the incident a director of the company responsible for the workers (with 40 years’ construction experience), who was their supervisor at the time, has been charged with two counts of manslaughter.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is continuing to investigate the incident. This investigation may result in further charges being brought against businesses or individuals where there is evidence that they may have breached WHS laws in relation to the incident, however it is too early to tell what may happen.
Proactive reduction in exposure is the key
In our view, being proactive, rather than just hoping that something will not go wrong, clearly is the best strategy in managing or reducing a business’ potential exposure to WHS liability.
Taking proactive steps to reduce potential exposure to WHS liability will not only reduce the potential financial and personal costs associated with a WHS breach, but also create safer and healthier (and more productive) workplaces.
Examples of steps that businesses may take in order to reduce their potential exposure to WHS liability are set out in our previous blog “’Tis the season for no so jolly injuries” (click here). These include updating policies, consulting with contractors, and training officers and workers on their WHS duties.
If you would like further information on how your business can reduce its potential exposure to WHS liability, please contact a member of the PCS Legal Team.