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Company and director fined for obstructing WorkSafe investigation

Date: 
Tuesday, 23 July, 2019 - 14:15
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Northern Territory

A labour hire company and company director were both convicted and fined a total of $13,000 recently in the Darwin Local Court, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 155 (5) of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011.

The company, Tropickist, and company Director, David O’Brien, failed to cooperate with NT WorkSafe, and without a reasonable excuse, ignored requests to provide documents during an investigation into the 2016 death of Fijian national, Josia Benaca Turagatani.

Turagatani, who was hired to pick fruit in the Douglas Daly region by Tropickist, died in June 2016 in a motor vehicle incident involving a vehicle provided by Tropickist to its workers.

The conviction was a timely reminder that work health and safety laws applied to a wide variety of situations and to all workplaces, and it was the role of the regulator through an investigation, to determine if an incident was work-related or not, said Acting Executive Director of NT WorkSafe, Chris Wicks.

“It was concerning to hear that during sentencing the relevance of NT WorkSafe’s investigation into the matter was queried,” 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.

“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.”

Tropickist was fined $10,000 and O’Brien $3,000, after a discount given for an early guilty plea. Tropickist and Mr O’Brien were also required to pay a victims levy of $150 each.

The charge for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 against both Tropickist and its director, for exposing its workers and other persons to whom it owed a workplace duty of care to risk of death, was earlier withdrawn on legal advice concerning evidentiary issues.