What happened last week is a reality-check for all business owners and managers.
Cold Spark Pty Ltd was just like any other small contractor on a large construction project. Mr Day, the principal of Cold Spark Pty Ltd, did not pay enough attention to his safety obligations, and now is in jail.
The background to Mr Day’s conviction is the tragic death of 20 year old Jason Jon Garrels.
Cold Spark Pty Ltd was engaged to carry out electrical work for the development of an industrial estate in Queensland. Jason was a young labourer working on site. At the time of Jason’s death, he was holding up a construction switchboard with supporting poles in a trench that was being backfilled. The switchboard became electrified, killing him.
The reason the switchboard became electrified is complex. Ultimately it was because Mr Day had not properly installed the fuses and electrical wiring to an ungrounded electrical box. Preventative measures could have been easily taken. However, it should be noted that Mr Day’s offence was one of neglect; he did not intend Jason’s death. In defence submissions, Mr Day’s lawyers pointed out that Mr Day had exposed himself to the same risk he had exposed Jason.
The case is important because it sets the benchmark for the new WHS industrial manslaughter offence in Queensland (and no doubt similar offences across the county).
Mr Day was convicted of an offence under the Queensland Criminal Code. Whilst that is a completely different statute, it is as close as you can get to the WHS industrial manslaughter offence.
Marking a new era for WHS
The sentencing of jail for Mr Day is a harsh reminder that businesses can no longer regard the threat of imprisonment as illusionary. In this new era, whether business owners end up in jail will be down to a combination of the WHS systems in place together with the effectiveness of incident response.
It is time to audit WHS systems and develop incident response protocols.
Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors are experts at both reviewing existing systems and developing critical incident protocols. We work with the NSW Business Chamber, industry auditors and insurers to get our clients the best protection possible.
Complacency can be costly. Contact ABLA on 1300 565 846 or firstname.lastname@example.org to review your WHS systems before something happens.
To read full case notes click here