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A Fatality and $1.1 Million WHS Fine

This recent fine is one of the highest, if not the highest fine, under the harmonised WHS legislation in Australia.

The tragic fatality that should never have happened. It could have been easily avoided.

The Fatality

The fatality occurred when the employee of a subcontractor made a delivery to a storage site controlled by the PCBU. The bucket of the employee’s truck came into contact with live power lines whilst unloading. He was electrocuted and died.

The Fine

The prosecution alleged that the PCBU “failed to provide a work environment without risks to health and safety and failed to maintain a safe system of work”.

The Industrial Magistrate agreed and fined the PCBU $1.1 million. The maximum fine possible under the WHS Act is $1.5 million. The PCBU is now in liquidation.

How the Fatality and Fine Could Have Been Avoided

The Industrial Magistrate concluded that there were a “number of relatively simple safety measures which could have been utilised to mitigate or eliminate the risk associated with the power lines”

“These included:

- not using that site at all,

- limiting access to the site, particularly by securing the fence around it,

- having power turned off if a delivery to the site was required,

- requiring that any deliveries be accompanied by a spotter,

- providing appropriate signage as to the particular risk of overhead power lines, consisting of a sign on the gate or fence surrounding the site,

- placing flags or “tiger tails’ on the lines themselves to make them more visible

- warning all potential users to the site of the presence of, and risk associated with, the lines at the Boldrewood compound in particular through a site induction.”

The Industrial Magistrate also noted that:

- The limited measure of restricting their employees’ use of the site did not satisfy the PCBU’s safety duty

- “There is no evidence that the risk to other visitors was even contemplated never mind addressed in the multiple simple ways available and identified above.”

- The Safety Officer “had no experience or qualifications in safety systems”


The prosecution of this PCBU is part of the same court case covered in our recent article, Who is an ‘Officer” –The First Court Case

The matter of higher fines under the WHS Act compared to the prior OHS Act is covered in our Nov 2014 article, Unhandled Risks Cost More Under the WHS Act

You are welcome to download and distribute the article in your workplace if you feel it may be useful

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