Workplace Prosecutions

Workplace Health and Safety legislation and regulation is a complex area for businesses, especially small businesses to navigate.

Failure to ensure that there is a safe system of work for employees and customers can place you at risk of investigation and prosecution.

The WHS process

When injuries occur in workplace environments, assessments are made as to the degree of seriousness or culpability of individuals, managers and office holders involved.

In the event of a workplace incident, it is important to understand the procedure adopted by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Electrical Safety Office who administer the Electrical Safety Act 2002.  The WHSQ has a number of investigative procedures in place which are followed in order to conduct their investigation.

WHSQ and ESO inspectors have powers to enter any workplace that:

  • Is authorized by a search warrant;
  • Is used for carrying out work involving the storage and handling of dangerous goods;
  • Is used for carrying out work that involves the operation, use and storing of high risk plant that affects public safety;
  • Is covered by the Commonwealth legislation if the inspector believes it is necessary to do so to help any enquiries covered by the WHS legislation.

The investigation team will attend as soon as possible after the incident, visit the scene, photograph or sketch equipment or relevant items in order to preserve the incident scene.  They will identify witnesses and interview each witness separately.  They will also interview and inspect all sources of information.

In the event that the WHSQ inspectors or ESO inspectors attend your workplace to investigate a workplace incident, it is important that you understand your obligations and rights in relation to their investigation.

The consequences of a WHS or ESO investigation

Depending on the nature of the investigation and the risk that any identified non-compliance poses, the WHS inspector or ESO inspector may be empowered to issue a suspension or cancellation of a license or a notice seeking that the business undertake steps to rectify non-compliance.  Types of notices include:

  • Infringement notices
  • Prohibition notices;
  • Improvement notices;
  • Non-disturbance notice;
  • Electrical safety protection notice;
  • Unsafe equipment notice.

In the event that those steps are not deemed appropriate by the WHS inspector or ESO inspector, the WHSQ is empowered to take steps to prosecute a breach of the legislation.  This results in criminal proceedings being commenced against the person for a breach of the legislation.

How can Robertson O’Gorman Solicitors help you?

As a leading criminal law firm in Queensland, we understand that the steps taken at the investigation stage may lead to vastly different outcomes. It is important that at each stage of a WHS or ESO investigation you are receiving protective advice about your position.