Director fined $200,000
A South Australian magistrate has fined a company director $200,000 and criticised him for taking out indemnity insurance to cover criminal work health and safety penalties.
Director Paolo Maione and his company, Ferro Con (SA) Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court of South Australia to breaching the South Australian Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986.
The prosecution followed a SafeWork SA investigation into an incident in which a worker died at the company on 16 July 2010.
The investigation found that a crane was lifting a 1.8-tonne, 14 metre-long steel beam when the sling supporting the beam broke, causing the end of the beam to drop onto the worker’s head.
The worker was knocked unconscious and died a short time later.
“No risk assessment or job safety analysis had been undertaken for this type of lift, and no safe working procedure had been devised to take account of the particular hazards of the task,” Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said in his ruling.
Maione and the company were each convicted and fined $200,000. Maione was ordered to pay $20,000 in compensation to the worker’s family.
He was also ordered to publish notices of the conviction and penalty to the employees of the companies of which he was the responsible officer on the date of the judgement (27 June 2013).
In addition, the notice was to be published in the Saturday Adelaide Advertiser, The Weekend Australian, and the journal of the Master Builders Association.
Magistrate Lieschke said that the Court was unable to challenge the company’s “general insurance policy, which apparently included indemnification of its Director for fines imposed for his criminal conduct”.
Lieschke was scathing of such indemnity. “In my opinion Mr Maione’s actions have also undermined the Court’s sentencing powers by negating the principles of both specific and general deterrence.
“The message his actions send to employers and Responsible Officers is that with insurance cover for criminal penalties for OHS offences there is little need to fear the consequences of very serious offending, even if an offence has fatal consequences.
“As for specific deterrence Mr Maione has not said he no longer has such insurance for his current businesses.”