We shouldn’t have to tell you that operational health and safety is a big deal – even traditionally “safe” workplaces like offices aren’t exempt.
Luckily for us, we live in a country that takes OHS very seriously, with hefty punishments for even minor violations, such as missing workplace safety signs.
This can take the form of fines, and even prison sentences.
For the first time in Australian history, an OHS violation has resulted in a prison sentence.
Read on to learn more!
What’s the story?
Under Victorian workplace safety laws, Victorian courts have the power to hand out prison sentences in cases of serious OHS breaches.
Prison was always the nuclear option. Luckily, for 14 years there wasn’t a case serious enough to justify it.
As you can tell by the title of this post however, that winning streak is over.
Specifically, it ended in December of 2018, when 72-year-old Gippsland woman Maria Jackson (owner of a scrap metal business) was convicted of recklessly violating the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2004.
In doing so, she made Australian history, becoming the first person to be sent to prison over an OHS violation.
The story goes that Maria was operating a forklift – a vehicle she wasn’t licensed to drive. This was exacerbated by a recent stroke, which she was still recovering from.
She was using the forklift to lift a scrap metal bin which was in extremely poor condition – as a result, the bottom gave way.
Unfortunately, Maria failed to check whether or not anybody was in the bin before she lifted it with her forklift. A 50-year-old employee fell through the bottom of the bin, hitting his head and sadly, sustained fatal injuries.
Maria pled guilty in court to both failing to comply to her duties as an employer, and to engaging in conduct that recklessly endangered someone in a workplace.
For this, she received a $10,000 fine and a six month prison sentence.
This gross violation of safety standards in an already hazard filled workplace reinforce the importance of workplace safety measures, including:
- Emergency procedures
- Safe processes
- Physical barriers and protection
- Safety equipment
- Appropriate safety signs in the workplace.
Keep your staff up to date with OHS safety signs and meanings
There are more and more calls for harsher penal punishments for people in breach of the OHS Act.
With the safety of loved ones at stake, it’s no wonder people are calling for the law to take action!
It is likely that the LaTrobe Valley case will likely pave the way for more sentences in the future, and probably with harsher punishments to people who breach OHS and recklessly endanger lives.
As the owner of a business that operates in hazardous environment, or an employee in a dangerous workplace, it’s essential you ensure that the entire team understands workplace signs and meanings.
OHS laws you and your team need to know
With tough new legislation on the horizon and sentences for breaches of the OHS Act likely to get harsher, it’s more important than ever that you take your OHS obligations seriously.
And what better place to start than by ensuring you understand the most common OHS breaches?
Once you wrap you head around how and why other people end up in court as a result of a breach, you will know what you need to do (and what you shouldn’t) to ensure you don’t follow their example.
A person who recklessly engages in behaviour that endangers the safety of someone within a workplace is guilty of an indictable offence and can be punished with the following;
- An individual can receive a prison sentence up to 5 years, either under workplace safety laws or as a separate manslaughter case
- A hefty fine, handed out either to the individual, company or both (the amount varies depending on the state)
Steps you can take to minimise an OHS breach
Now that the Victorian courts have handed out the first prison sentence for an OHS breach, you might be wondering how you can further improve safety in your workplace.
So why not start with your OHS safety signs?
The correct workplace safety sign should be clear in meaning and hard to miss. The signs create permanent reminders for all team members that safety is the first priority.
- Ensure all your employees have completed induction training before they begin work and are familiar with OHS safety signs and meanings
- Identify hazards before they cause harm by installing appropriate signage
- Employ safe handling and lifting techniques
- Increase the safety of your office space by hanging workplace safety signage
Of course, simply having signs isn’t always enough – your OHS safety signs need to follow Australian standards for colour and design, have easy-to-understand pictograms, be an appropriate size… the list of requirements goes on and on!
It can be hard to wrap your head around the myriad requirements for legal (and more importantly, effective) safety signage in the workplace.
Luckily, Signsmart can help!
Find the right safety signs with Signsmart
Like the name suggests, Signsmart are all about smarter signage in the workplace.
Whether you work in the chemical industry, manufacturing and logistics, a transport company, petrochemicals, you’re workplace definitely needs the right safety signage.
Signsmart can provide the correct safety signs, labels and EIPs to ensure the safety of yourself, your workers and your clients.
Signsmart specialises in custom safety signage, so you can rest assured that no matter the industry, you’ll receive the right sign.
Our team understand safety signs, their meanings and Australian signage standards. After a quick conversation, our team will determine the exact legal requirements your workplace is bound by and provide the right safety signs to comply.