A court has imposed financial penalties on a labour hire company and its director after a safety regulator accused them of obstructing the investigation into a fatal accident.
NT WorkSafe said in a statement that Tropickist Pty Ltd and its director, David O’Brien, were both convicted by the Darwin Local Court earlier this month of breaching workplace health and safety laws.
The agency said that Mr O’Brien and Tropickist had “failed to cooperate with NT WorkSafe and, without a reasonable excuse, ignored requests to provide documents during an investigation into the 2016 death of a Fijian national”, who died following a motor vehicle accident in June 2016.
According to NT WorkSafe, the accident involved a vehicle provided by the company to its workers, who were hired as fruit pickers in the Douglas Daly region.
Fines of $10,000 for the business and $3,000 for Mr O’Brien personally were handed down by the court, the regulator said, with the fines reduced because both had pleaded guilty to breaching section 155 (5) of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011.
That clause states that “a person must not, without reasonable excuse, refuse or fail to comply with a requirement under this section”.
The law provides for maximum penalties of $10,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a body corporate for breaching this provision.
Both parties were also ordered to pay a victims levy of $150 each. The ruling was made on 3 July 2019.
“It was concerning to hear that during sentencing, the relevance of NT WorkSafe’s investigation into the matter was queried,” NT WorkSafe’s acting executive director, Chris Wicks, said.
“Just because an incident involves a motor vehicle, doesn’t mean it is only a police matter under the motor vehicle and traffic legislation.
“In certain circumstances, work health and safety laws can apply, and it is the role of WorkSafe Inspectors to investigate whether a person conducting a business or undertaking has breached safety standards owed by them to workers and other persons.”
Mr Wicks added: “Unless there is a reasonable excuse, businesses and workers have an obligation under the work health and safety laws to comply with a request for information during an investigation.”
ASIC business registry shows that Tropickist Pty Ltd was placed into liquidation on 25 January this year.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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