WorkSafe initiates first charges under WA's new health, safety laws

Fines could reach $3.5 million for guilty organisations

WorkSafe initiates first charges under WA's new health, safety laws

WorkSafe is taking legal action against four breachers of the state's work health and safety law in its first-ever round of prosecutions under the recently passed legislation.

In a media release, WorkSafe said it launched legal action against engineered wood product manufacturer Wesbeam Pty Ltd after an employee received serious injuries in 2022 in a mishap at the firm's Neerabup factory. According to WorkSafe, the employee was clearing a blockage on a conveyor belt when his arm was dragged into an unguarded section, which resulted in serious injuries and extensive medical treatment.

WorkSafe is alleging that Wesbeam failed in its duty while in control of plan and consequently causing serious harm to an employee.

First mention of the case will take place in Joondalup Magistrates Court on June 7. The maximum penalty for the breach is $3.5 million, according to WorkSafe.

Second, third cases

In another case, WorkSafe also charged haulage and crushing contractor MLG OZ Limited and mine operator Evolution Mining for causing serious harm to an employee in April 2022. In this case, a heavy diesel mechanic's arm was crushed after attempting to clear an obstruction near an unguarded roller of a mobile stacker at a gold mine west of Kalgoorlie.

Maximum penalty for the crime is also $3.5 million, while the first mention will be on June 24 in Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court.

Sally North, acting WorkSafe commissioner, lamented the employees' situation after their employers failed to comply with work health and safety laws.

"It's disappointing that workers continue to suffer serious or permanent injuries due to failure by employers to comply with their obligations under Work Health and Safety laws," North said in a statement.

Asbestos removal violation

Meanwhile, WorkSafe is also taking legal action against individual Justin John Collins, who removed asbestos fencing despite not having the licence to do so. According to WorkSafe, Collins removed 41 metres of asbestos fencing from between two houses in Beckenham.

If found guilty, Collins could be fined with up to $25,000. 

The charges are all filed under Western Australia's new Work Health and Safety Law, which took effect in 2022.

"The Work Health and Safety laws carry additional and more serious penalties than the previous laws," North said.

"The potential consequences of failing to ensure a safe and healthy workplace are now more serious than they have ever been, and I encourage everyone with work health and safety duties to be proactive in managing risks."

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