Get ready for the fireworks

   23 Jul 2014

Officer Charged Under Harmonized WHS Act 2011

Since the introduction of the WHS Act 2011, directors and officers have been in the firing line, with potentially substantial fines including imprisonment. Everyone has been waiting for the first case, to see how the courts treat the Act.

Robert O'neil - Work Safety Hub Blog - June 18, 2014

Death of a worker

Just this week, after one worker in the ACT was killed; Kennos Contractors Pty Ltd was held liable and charged for failing to comply with all the safety and health obligations regarded to employers. One senior manager, based on the definition of the term, “officer” was also charged because of alleged negligence. The charges which were laid, may be classified under offences in category 2, meaning that both the manager and the company face penalties of up to $1.5M and $150,000, respectively.

The matter has not yet been brought to trial, so any penalties which will be imposed on the parties have yet to be seen.

Significantly, it is expected that the definition of the term “officer” will bring about ambiguity, prompting lawyers to contest the subject and whether or not the organisation’s senior manager is fit to be considered as one.

Define Officer

Under the work health and safety legislation model, the definition being used is the same as that which is indicated in the Corporations Act. This relates to an individual who participates in the process of creation or the one responsible for making decisions which have an effect on a substantial part of an undertaking or the business as a whole.”

This case will serve as a timely reminder for all business' to make sure that the terms are properly laid out and officers are aptly identified so that the work health and safety legislation will not be compromised. It is important that companies remain up to speed regarding their obligations at all times.

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