The District Court has recently decreased a fine to zero after establishing that despite their serious health and safety failures a company was not financially capable of paying.

An employee of the company was out working on maintenance when a wire came loose and penetrated the worker’s eye. The worker had to undergo two surgeries to repair the damage to his eye and now suffers permanent vision loss. Safety glasses had been provided to the worker but he had not been wearing them.

The worker received a general induction at the beginning of his employment. However, the induction had not shown the worker the necessary personal protective equipment to be used when carrying out his work.

The Court had to determine whether the company had ensured, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers. As a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking the company was legally required to have taken those measures.

The Court decided that while the company had provided the necessary PPE for the construction job, they had failed to ensure that their workers wore the equipment. Further, the company had no Safe Operating Plan for the job and the risks associated with the job were not adequately assessed.

The risk of injury associated with wires is well known in the construction industry and that risk eventuated, leaving the worker impaired. Evidence was also provided to show that a “near miss” accident of the same kind had occurred a few weeks earlier.

The Court decided that the company had failed to comply with its health and safety obligations, and set the starting point for the fine at $400,000. Discounts were awarded for early guilty plea, remorse, previous good record, and reparations to be made. This decreased the fine to $240,000.

However, evidence provided to the Court showed that the company was not in a financial position to pay the fine. Therefore, the fine was reduced to zero.

The Court ordered the company to pay $60,000 in reparations to the victim, and another $2,100 in consequential loss. The company was also ordered to pay $5,300 towards costs. The company’s payments totalled just over $67,000.

It is important to be aware of your health and safety obligations in order to minimise the risk of serious injuries like this one. If you are confused about your obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors