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The cost of failing to notify the regulator of a notifiable incident

Persons conducting a business or undertaking have a strict obligation to notify the regulator of notifiable incidents. Failure to do so can result in significant penalties, as demonstrated by the recent WorkSafe Victoria prosecution of Reel Industries Pty Ltd.

On 10 December 2021, a worker was operating a rip saw to cut large pieces of timber used to make wooden reels for wire cables. The worker’s hands were near the blade, which was guarded. The worker was guiding a large piece of timber through the saw when his right hand bumped into the blade, resulting in amputation of his right index finger and severe lacerations to his middle finger.

WorkSafe attended the site after being told of the incident by the injured worker. The company had not reported the incident despite, as WorkSafe learned, the worker being taken to hospital by a staff member of the company, leaving through the front doors. The injured worker ultimately lost both fingers. During the WorkSafe inspection, it was noted that the saw did not have an emergency stop button.

The company pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 for both a charge relating to its failure to ensure safe plant – in particular, the lack of an emergency stop button – as well as $10,000 for the failure to notify.

The Court specifically noted that it could not believe that the company was unaware of its obligation to notify WorkSafe of the incident, despite having been in business for 28 years.

All employers should be clear on the strict obligation to notify the regulator of serious incidents and near misses, and ensure that all workers and managers adhere to those requirements. Although no prosecution against the directors of the company were commenced in this matter, a failure of a director to ensure such procedures are known and implemented can result in personal prosecution.

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