The Alice Springs Local Court has convicted and fined a Queensland-based cattle company and one of its workers for hindering and ignoring an NT WorkSafe investigation over an incident that seriously injured two workers at Ambalindum Station in Central Australia two years ago.
The Northern Territory’s Work Health and Safety regulator Bill Esteves said Ryan Watts was fined $4,000 for breaching one of the provisions of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 by failing to comply with a written notice to produce documents and information on the incident’s investigation.
Hewitt Cattle Australia Pty Ltd, which owns Ambalindum Station, was also charged over the incident for failing in its primary duty of care, and for failing to notify NT WorkSafe of the incident, he said.
Mr Esteves said that on February 8, 2018, Mr Watts and two other workers he had subcontracted were using a telehandler (a machine that’s like a forklift but has a telescopic crane) fitted with a man cage at the the top of the crane arm to install downpipes on a new shed at the station.
The man cage, which they were in, broke free and fell over two metres seriously injuring Mr Watts and one of the workers.
According to WorkSafe, during their investigation Mr Watts was issued a notice to produce documents and information as part of the investigation. WorkSafe said Mr Watts acknowledged the request for information but failed to provide the information by the specified time.
The authority said they gave Mr Watts an extension, considering his recovery. However, he still failed to meet the new deadline.
However Mr Esteves said Mr Watts failed to meet the new deadline and “completely disengaged from the investigation, ignoring NT WorkSafe’s attempts to contact him”.
Mr Esteves said the exercise of powers to gather evidence was necessary to monitor and enforce compliance with the Act.
“This is particularly important when what went wrong is not clearly understood, and there is genuine need to find out what can be done to improve workplace practices, to protect workers and others from further harm,” Mr Esteves said.
This case has been adjourned to August 18, 2020 in the Alice Springs Local Court for a plea.
Twenty one new offences that can be dealt with by on-the-spot fines have been added to the Territory’s work health and safety laws.
The new infringement offences come into effect today, Thursday, with the majority of the fines costing an individual $720 or a body corporate $3,600.
Mr Esteves said WorkSafe inspectors who discover breaches in circumstances which warrant a penalty, but are not serious enough to prosecute directly through the courts, will now be able to issue on-the-spot fines
A list of these new offences is available on the NT WorkSafe website.