Workplace fatality jailing a warning for businesses

Businesses are being urged to review their work, health and safety (WHS) processes, following the first jailing of a company director over a workplace incident.

MT Sheds (WA) Director Mark Thomas Withers was sentenced in Esperance Court on Tuesday (May 25) to two years and two months’ imprisonment, of which he will serve eight months – with the remaining 18 months suspended for 12 months.

This followed the death of a 25-year-old worker who fell from a machinery shed, and the serious injury of another worker who also fell in the same incident in March 2020.

MT Sheds was also fined $605,000 for gross negligence and breaches of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, with Withers also fined $2250 for operating a crane without the appropriate licence.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh highlighted the significance of the sentence, which is the longest ever imposed for a WHS offence in Australia.

MT Sheds is the first WA employer to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment under WA’s workplace safety and health laws. The fines are also the highest under the State’s maximum Occupational Health and Safety penalties, which increased significantly in 2018.

As CCIWA WHS Practitioner Matt Butterworth explains, the State’s new WHS laws – to come into effect early next year – carry even harsher penalties and lower standards for prosecution.

“The new WHS laws carry more significant penalties than the existing law that this director was prosecuted under, including up to 20 years’ imprisonment of individuals for industrial manslaughter and penalties of up to $10 million for a company,” he said.

CCIWA’s WHS team can help you to understand your obligations, so get in contact to find out how to ensure you are ready for the introduction of the new laws.

Contact our Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email [email protected]

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