First Category 1 Fine
Cudal Lime Products Pty Ltd has become the first Australian firm to be prosecuted and fined ($900,000) under Category 1 of the WHS laws.
The NSW mining company provided housing where in August 2014 a woman was electrocuted in a shower due to a fault in the electrical supply system.
A team leader was also charged with reckless conduct over the incident and was fined $48,000.
The Work Health and Safety Act S.30 makes it a (Category 1) offence to recklessly expose someone to the risk of death or serious injury, with penalties up to $3m for businesses and substantial fines and/or 5 years jail for officers and workers.
A Category 2 offence is where someone is exposed to the risk of death or serious injury (but not reckless), and a Category 3 offence is where there is a failure to comply with aspects of the Act eg a technical breach.
The District Court heard evidence of previous improvement notices issued against the company in relation to inadequacies in the mine electrical systems and that numerous faults were found in the wiring after the accident and non-compliance with electrical standards. A team leader not qualified for electrical work also admitted he installed part of the wiring which contributed to the shower fitting in the mine residence becoming live.
It would appear the court was provided with sufficient evidence to prove not just a dangerous situation existed, but also that reckless behaviour was involved as well. Otherwise the tragic accident would have been a Category 2 offence, not Category 1.
The two key lessons arising from this case are:
1) Only allow qualified electricians perform electrical work; and
2) It is not enough to be generous eg providing workers and family with housing, you need to ensure it is safe eg compliant wiring with effective earth leakage circuit breakers.
The case reference is Stephen James Orr v Cudal Lime Products Pty Ltd, NSW, 26 February 2018.