Our practice is one of few criminal law firms that defend individuals and companies prosecuted by the Victoria Workcover Authority (VWA) or WorkSafe.
Individuals and companies can be prosecuted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, the Accident Compensation Act 1985, the Dangerous Goods Act 1985, the Equipment (Public Safety Act) 1994, and Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013.
The VWA frequently prosecutes companies in relation to allegations that an employer has failed to provide a safe working environment, which include:
- unguarded plant;
- inadequate fall prevention measures;
- situations where asbestos has been removed by unqualified individuals and/or in circumstances where inadequate protective equipment and measures have been employed;
- failure to provide employees with amenities and facilities integral to the health, safety and welfare of employees;
- and failure to manage workplace hazards such as toxic gases and vapours, heat, cold and confined spaces.
VWA prosecutions proceed through the same criminal procedure as prosecutions for criminal offences instigated by Victoria Police and the Department of Public Prosecutions. These prosecutions are initiated (and often remain) in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and, if found guilty after a contest or plea, the accused company can face significant and sometimes crippling financial penalties and orders for costs that can significantly impact upon, particularly, small businesses. For businesses that tender for government work, a conviction for OH&S offences can make the tender process more difficult, as convictions usually need to be disclosed.
There are many ways in which WorkSafe matters can be managed, negotiated, and presented which can reduce the number of charges, negotiate the summary of facts read out to the Court and ultimately affect the penalty that the company receives if any penalty is incurred at all. Given our significant experience in the criminal jurisdiction, we have access to the best barristers who regularly represent companies and individuals charged with OH&S offences. Our solicitors also appear in such matters, which may confine the legal fees incurred and ultimately make it a more cost effective method of resolving VWA prosecutions than engaging a firm which does not regularly practice in this area and has little experience in the criminal jurisdiction.
If you or your company has been charged with OH&S offences, please contact our experienced team in order to discuss your matter.