In seeking to make the work environment a safer place, the Queensland Government implemented three main Acts: Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995, Electrical Safety Act 2002 and Dangerous Goods Safety Management Act 2001.
Who is Liable?
Together, these laws impose on virtually everyone from employers to project managers through to equipment designers and even investors have an obligation to minimise risk in any workplace. What level of risk is acceptable and how it should be managed is often very difficult to determine. But if a breach of that obligation is alleged, an individual can face the prospect of involvement in a criminal prosecution - the outcome of which, in serious cases, might attract a fine of up to $200,000.00, and up to 3 years imprisonment. And of course, much higher fines apply to corporations. On top of that, in these prosecutions (unlike most other criminal prosecutions) the court can order that the individual or company charged pay the costs incurred by Work Cover in bringing the charge to court.
In less serious situations, inspectors can also shut down operation of the business involved or seize its equipment or product.
What can be done?
Having said that, it is important to remember that most enforcement activity is only taken once an inspector has investigated the alleged breach and determined if the alleged breach fits into certain criteria. Owing to the wide range of enforcement action available to an inspector, the initial investigation may not always result in a full blown prosecution.
It is vital at this initial stage to immediately contact an experienced criminal lawyer familiar with how these Occupational Health and Safety laws work. The early identification and disclosure of adequate risk management can prevent the escalation of a relatively minor breach into a full criminal prosecution. Or in other cases, the timely implementation of certain codes of industry practice can significantly mitigate what would otherwise be a crushing penalty.
Contact us today.