WorkSafe wins appeal on inadequate penalty

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WorkSafe has successfully appealed a penalty given to a trucking company in December 2016 and it has been increased considerably.

Cleveland Freightlines Pty Ltd was found guilty of nine charges of failing to ensure records were kept of the work time, breaks and non-work time of nine commercial vehicle drivers.

Cleveland was also found guilty of six charges of failing to ensure that a commercial vehicle driver – who drove without a relief driver – did not drive for more than 17 hours without at least seven consecutive hours of non-work time.

The company was given global fines of $9000 for the nine record-keeping offences and $18,000 for the six driving hours offences in the Magistrates Court.

WorkSafe appealed the level of the penalty, and in the Supreme Court last week Justice Fiannaca concluded that the original fines were “manifestly inadequate” and substituted fines of $30,000 and $28,000 and awarded the State $3000 in costs.

He concluded that the original fines were not “punishment of a kind that could be expected to have a meaningful impact on corporate behaviour and commercial practices to ensure compliance with the Regulations.”

Justice Fiannaca’s reasons emphasised that the risk of fatigue in long-haul drives, especially from Adelaide to Perth, was significant and that the fines imposed needed to make offending “unprofitable”.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said he doubted the original penalty would have provided a high level of deterrence to other potential offenders.

“We’re pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to set aside the original penalty and impose a considerably higher fine,” Mr Munns said.

“There’s very little deterrence value in a low level fine – the company will simply pay the fine and move on and the serious risks to road safety will remain.”

WA’s Road Safety Council echoed WorkSafe’s concerns about commercial vehicle drivers who did not take adequate rest or non-work breaks.

“Fatigue remains the silent killer on our roads, and it can affect anyone behind the wheel, day or night,” said Acting Road Safety Commissioner, Iain Cameron.

“I would encourage companies to ensure that the safety of their employees and other road users is a priority in planning their work practices, policies and procedures.”

Full details of the decision are available on the website of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Media Contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media queries only)
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

Media release
25 Jan 2018

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