WorkSafe WA: Employment consultancy fined $50,000 over workers lost in remote location

Thursday, 23 August, 2012 - 10:00
Incidents & prosecutions

WorkSafe WA have advised that an employment consultancy has been fined $50,000 over an incident where two female workers became lost in a remote location north-east of Kalgoorlie.

WorkSafe WA report that MAXNetwork was contracted to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to consult with disadvantaged job seekers and that a number of employment consultants regularly travel to remote areas - some accessible only by dirt roads and narrow tracks.

WorkSafe WA advise that in December 2009, two of the company's Kalgoorlie area employment consultants were instructed to go to the remote community of Tjuntjuntjara, around 600km north-east of Kalgoorlie in the Great Victoria Desert. The two consultants departed Kalgoorlie at around 6.00am on a journey estimated to take nine to ten hours.

WorkSafe WA report that the women were not provided with a map, GPS or any other navigational aids, and consequently became lost. They had received no training or instruction on travelling in remote areas. The satellite telephone provided to the consultants failed to work, a fact which management was aware of prior to the trip. There was no schedule for regular contact with workers in remote locations so no-one realised the women were overdue.

WorkSafe WA found that the vehicle did carry an EPIRB, but neither woman had been adequately trained or instructed in its use and it was not turned on correctly. MAXNetwork received a call from the Tjuntjuntjara Community at about 4.30pm on the day of the trip, asking when the consultants would arrive. It was believed that the women were just running late, so there was no attempt to contact them on the satellite phone. A text message was sent to one of the women during the evening, but the mobile phone had no reception.

WorkSafe report that at around 5.00am, after 23 hours of constant driving, the consultants came across the Ilkulka roadhouse, outside of which was a public telephone that one of the women used to telephone her husband, who contacted MAXNetwork to tell them that the two women were lost.

Further information on this incident head to the WorkSafe WA website.

WorkSafe WA has information and guidance on working in remote locations. The Guidance Note on Working Alone and other information can be sourced from the WorkSafe WA website.