Health and safety representative

Conviction Category 2 Offence – South Australian Employment Court

Further to the Category 2 case outlined in our August 2023 edition, this case involved the death of a student who was on a school excursion in a National Park. The activities involved fishing and sightseeing with some possible rock fishing. 

Shortly after arriving at the clamping grounds some of the students proceeded to go to a rocky outcrop near the sea. Unfortunately, one of the students either slipped or jumped into the sea and his body was not recovered until the next day. 

It was noted in the South Australian Employment Court that the supervision of the students while on the trip was to be undertaken by senior staff who did not have any work, health and safety training and there was certainly no risk assessment undertaken of rock fishing.

Evidence was led in the form of a pamphlet published by Royal Life Saving Australia that in undertaking such activities, the sport was regarded as one of Australia’s most dangerous sports, and accounts for 4% of all drownings in Australia. The safety advice was that people undertaking such activities should wear a life jacket and non-slip shoes.

The Court imposed a fine of $700,000 to be discounted by 40% due to an early guilty plea and a conviction recorded. This resulted in a fine of $420,000 for the breach, following the discount, $405 towards victims of crime levy and $2163 for the victim’s costs.

Key Takeaway for employers:

This case reinforces the need for employers to not only have all staff trained, but to also ensure a risk assessment of all activities to be engaged by employees is in place, particularly when such activities fall outside the norm i.e., employer endorsed social activities.

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