Reckless Endangerment Fines

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In June 2010 a Victorian printing company was convicted and fined $280,000 for knowing that their workers were in danger, but failing to adequately protect them and for failing to identify the risks present in their business.
The case involved a 37 year-old printer who, in July 2008, had three fingers on his left hand crushed after it became trapped between the rollers of a printing press that was inadequately guarded. It had become common practice for some of the workers to bypass the guarding on the printing press in order to operate and clean it and the company was aware of this. Management had emailed staff telling them not to override the guarding but they did not enforce this instruction and did nothing to stop the behaviour. Instructions on how to safely operate and clean the press did not exist.

The first company in Victoria to be convicted for recklessly endangering a worker was a Perth-based drilling company in April 2010. The case involved a 21 year-old man who was crushed to death in December 2006 when the truck that he was driving went out of control on a steep slope, overturned, and crushed him.
Investigation revealed that the truck's hand brake wasn't working and the secondary brake had been disconnected. The truck hadn't been serviced for over six months.

The company was fined $750,000 for failing to ensure the truck that was being driven was in proper working order.
In his position as head of the company, the director was also convicted and fined $120,000 for failing to ensure that the truck that was provided was safe and well maintained.

Under the new national WHS laws, recklessness (knew of the danger and made or let it happen) is a Category 1 offence that attracts a maximum fine of $3m for corporations, $600,000/5 years jail for officers and $300,000/5 years jail for workers who are found to be guilty of reckless conduct.

It is a timely reminder for the need for businesses to have a sound understanding of their operations possibly by undertaking a review. Priority must be given to the identification and control of risks within the business.