A recent decision in the South Australian Industrial Relations Court has shown that an occupational safety and health (OSH) legislative compliance audit can significantly reduce the penalty imposed following an OSH incident by demonstrating a commitment to improve safety.

In Boland v Trading Metals Pty Ltd [2015] SAIRC 30, the respondent was charged with breaching s32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) after one of its employees lost the top of his right ring finger when it became trapped by a pallet that was being loaded onto a truck by a forklift at his workplace.

Trading Metals entered an early plea of guilty and was found to be co-operative during the investigation and prosecution stage. Further, the court heard that:

  • this was the first offence for Trading Metals;
  • following the incident, Trading Metals took positive steps to address the deficiencies at its worksite; and
  • prior to the incident, Trading Metals had made attempts to address work health and safety issues commencing with a legislative compliance audit”.

Taking into account all these matters, the Industrial Magistrate found that Trading Metals should be penalised ‘in the context of an organisation that had taken steps to work safely’ and imposed a fine of $65,000. This fine was then reduced by a further 40% for the early plea of guilty, resulting in an actual fine of $39,000 (amounting to less than 3% of the maximum penalty of $1.5million).

This case serves as a timely reminder that a company’s decision to undertake an OSH legislative compliance audit will be considered by the court when determining the sum of penalties to be imposed following an OSH incident.

Squire Patton Boggs (AU) has extensive experience in conducting OSH legal compliance audits and preparing gap analysis reports to assist clients in managing their risk.

Why complete an audit?

The main purpose of an OSH legal audit and gap analysis (OSH Audit) is to ensure that your organisation has in place a process to identify and manage workplace health and safety risks and, if required, be able to prove that they have done all things reasonably practicable to provide a safe working environment.  An OSH Audit also enables the ‘officers’ in organisations to demonstrate they have exercised due diligence.

The process of conducting an OSH Audit is a straight forward one and we are able to scope the work and provide a fixed fee for our services.  Upon completion of an OSH Audit, your organisation will have a comprehensive report that will assist you with your risk management program.  We have had a number of clients who have seen the benefit of completing an OSH Audit and we would recommend it as a relatively low cost yet high value return.