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Work Health & Safety Breach – Jail Time for Queensland Director

Queensland has witnessed its first director being sentenced to imprisonment for breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in February 2019. A company director, Mr Lavin was sentenced in the Maroochydore District Court to one year’s imprisonment, suspended after 4 months, and his company Multi-Run Roofing was fined $1 million, to be paid within 6 months, for the death at work of an employee Mr Whareheepa Te Amo.

The Tragedy

Multi-Run Roofing was engaged to fit roof sheeting on a number of large sheds. In order to finish the work, one worker needs to straighten the sheets of roofing material near the edge of the roof. However, the company (under the instruction of Mr Lavin) did not install edge protection on the roof despite edge protection materials being on site and available at no cost. Scissor lifts were being used for fall control, however they were too low to protect the workers.

Mr Te Amo was working near the edge of the roof without wearing any harness when he lost his footing and fell almost 6 metres to his death.

Alert to Queensland Directors

Mr Lavin and his company did not have any prior relevant work health and safety breaches. However when the risk of not installing the protections was so high and the cost was so low, the Court determined that a term of imprisonment was appropriate.

When a company seriously breaches its WHS obligations in future, directors face the likelihood of a custodial sentence. As a result, directors need to actively consider potential safety issues and implement appropriate precautions as they cannot hide behind their companies.

Directors must do all things “reasonably practicable” to ensure compliance with their WHS obligations. All relevant matters need to be taken into account in determining whether this criterion is met, including the likelihood of risk, the degree of potential harm, and how it should be minimised. Directors will be taken to have constructive notice of risks and ways of minimising them which they should have known about or enquired into.


Bell Legal Group can assist you with any WHS issues. For information and assistance, please feel free to contact us on 07 5597 3366 or by Email mmiller@belllegal.com.au or complete the ‘Contact Us’ form below.


Please note that this article was prepared by Bell Legal Group, for information purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.