Guilty as Charged Employer's Attempts to Evade Liability End in Significant Fine

A Victorian Court has fined an employer AU$800,000 after it attempted to deregister following the tragic death of a worker.

An employee of Melbourne-based company Australian Box Recycling (ABR) was killed in August 2014 when a cable on a homemade "box stacking lift" snapped and fell on him. The box stacking lift was installed by the company manager (the son of the owners) who had no formal qualifications for such works and was oblivious to the hazards involved. In fact, the design of the box stacking lift was said to be "fatally flawed" and employees were put in extreme danger every time it was used.

After charges were laid, ABR attempted to deregister the company and refused to take part in any legal proceedings. Despite ABR refusing to take part in the proceedings, a fourday trial took place and ABR was found to have breached the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) by failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace. It subsequently started up another company which provided similar services to those provided by ABR.

It was held that ABR's complete lack of remorse and its attempt to wash its hands of any responsibility was reprehensible and should be publically condemned. This case serves as a strong warning to employers that OSH liability cannot be evaded by simply deregistering a company.