Managing people

CEPU and official penalised $72,000 for acting in an improper manner

The Federal Circuit and Family Court have penalised the CEPU and its official $72,000 after he was found to have misbehaved. Find out what happened here.

29 June 2022

The official failed to comply with site occupational health and safety requirements during a visit to a Buddina construction site in Queensland in July 2018.

While attending the six-storey residential and commercial development known as the Hedge Project, the official refused multiple requests that he be accompanied by the project manager and health, safety and environment adviser and to return to the muster point.

He also refused several police requests to leave the site.

The court found the official's conduct on 3 July 2018 at the Hedge Project site contravened the right of entry provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009.

He was penalised $12,000 and the CEPU $60,000. The penalties are close to the maximum allowable penalty for a contravention of the Fair Work Act.

In considering the seriousness of the contraventions and the need for deterrence Judge Vasta said: “In this matter, there were clear OHS requirements that were spelled out to [the official]. These requirements were not established to hamper any individual on the worksite. [They] were established to ensure the safety of all individuals, especially visitors, on the worksite.”

The judge continued: “To totally disregard these requirements... is extremely dangerous conduct on a construction worksite. To try and justify such behaviour by attempting to portray an urgent, life-threatening situation is simply laughable especially when one considers the collateral evidence of what was actually done by [the official] on the worksite. It would be extremely ironic if [the official] were truly attempting to act in the name of safety by totally 'trashing' the safety measures that were in place.”

In addressing the official's refusal of police requests to leave the site, the judge said: “To ignore the request of the police is behaviour that must be deterred in the strongest possible terms. It matters not whether [the official] truly believed that he was 'in the right' and the police were wrong; the maintenance of law and order is sacrosanct. There were other avenues for [the official] to challenge what the police were saying rather than maintaining the belligerent stand that he did.”

ABCC commissioner Stephen McBurney noted the decision provided important guidance on the right of entry.

“In this matter, the court has concluded that the permit holder ignored repeated occupational health and safety requests designed to protect visitors and workers on the site,” Mr McBurney said.

"It is also clear that [the official] chose to ignore Queensland police requests to leave the site. Right of entry laws enshrined in the Fair Work Act confers important rights and obligations on both permit holders and occupiers. The ABCC is committed to striking the appropriate balance. We will support permit holders to exercise the right of entry on building and construction sites, but in doing so they must comply with the rule of law."

Siobhann Provost

Senior Writer, My Business

Siobhann has over 18 years human resources business partnering experience in large organisations. She more recently established and led a people advice team of senior workplace advisors before moving into content writing.

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