Work Health and Safety laws of Australia: Case of Koness Contractors
Safety and Risk Management: Case Study of Koness Contractors
As far as the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Act is concerned, it happens to provide ‘a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work and of other people who might be affected by the work’ (Biggs & Biggs, 2013). In this report, the chosen case study is about Kenoss Contractors, which is a construction company of Canberra that came under limelight due to its lack of due diligence which ultimately resulted in the death of a sub-contractor named Michael Booth. How safety breaches can be fatal and wherein lies the importance of workplace safety in adherence with the new Work Health and Safety laws of Australia – have all been discussed and evaluated in this research report.
Describing the workplace
In March 2012, Michael Booth, a sub-contractor of the company was assigned to deliver a gravel-type material load to a fenced off compound of the construction company Kenoss, near a road resurfacing project of the company. The compound was the company property, which was largely used for storing piles of material and piping; but later during investigation the site appeared as to be designed for dumping ground for materials (Canberra Times, 2015). The sub-contractor as well as the driver of the load-truck, Mr. Booth had gone to the site where low-slung live power lines were all over the place and somehow his driven tip truck touched or came too close to the power lines which instantly created an electrical arc strong enough to cause tyre deflation and leave burn marks on the road. Mr. Booth jumped out from the truck in consequence of the electrocution and died after collapsing on the ground (ABC, 2015).
Describing the hazards
Workplace hazard can be anything which has the potential of causing harm to the workers or other people present at the workplace. Safety hazards can be depicted as the most common workplace hazards (Beus, Dhanani & McCord, 2015). In this case of Canberra construction company safety breach, several hazards as well as risk factors can be observed which were bound to have caused serious danger to the workers or others – Mr. Booth’s case had been an extreme instance in this regard.
During investigation, it was found that a number of safety breaches had occurred which ultimately led to the worker’s death. The company site resembled much like a dumping site rather than storage area, where power lines were aplenty and that too without any sign of warning. There were no safety signs which could have warned the workers or visitors about the live power lines (Canberra Times, 2015). No flags depicting warning could be traced either. Moreover, the access work site could be found as poorly managed which signifies the company’s lack of responsibility towards its workers.
When it comes to poor management, the company surely had a poor corporate culture which is reflected all across its business activities. In this regard, the safety officer issue can be raised as well. Investigation reveals that the son of the company GM (general manager) had been appointed as the safety officer who had no qualification for the job role (Canberra Times, 2015). Without having required professional qualification, some random individual had been given the charge of the workers’ safety within hazardous working scenario, which ultimately resulted in the death of a worker due to electrocution on the worksite. Adding to the risk factors of the scenario, lack of proper documentation as well as a well-planned and systematic safety approach can be mentioned which testify that importance of workplace safety is even more prioritized (ABC, 2015). In terms of deterrence, the tragic incident caused due to company’s lack of fulfilling duty of care is literally an eye-opener for business companies who need to keep in mind the workplace hazards to ensure utmost protection for the workers’ health and safety.
Furthermore, the dumping site despite being splattered with live wires, the site was not locked as no locks could be seen at the area, even though the area was fenced. Another of the major hazards can be mentioned as not turning off the power lines during working hours with full knowledge that workers or visitors like Mr. Booth can visit the area frequently (Employsure AU, 2015). Though the company had mentioned that workers had been informed of not using the smaller compound; no consideration was found in place for people like Mr. Booth who had frequent access to the company site purely out of business purpose. No spotter could be found either at the worksite where the tragic incident took place.
Ways the safety breach could have been avoided
The case of Kenoss is being considered as one of the first cases of Australia where a business organization has been charged and punished under the new nationally-harmonized laws of work health safety (Enhance Solutions AU, 2015).
Studies reveal that the victim Mr. Booth though was a regular at the company site, neither had a site induction nor had attended any safety talk session prior to attending the site (Employsure AU, 2015).
Conducting a complete workplace audit would have been effective for avoiding the safety breaches, as hazards would have been identified and rectified, and effective implementation of WHS policies could have been ensured (López-Alonso et al. 2013).
Had the on-site project manager Al-Hasani been appointed the safety officer instead of the unqualified one, the safety of the site perhaps could have been heightened and the death could have been avoided altogether (Employsure AU, 2015).
The negligence on the part of the construction company has basically caused someone his life which could have been avoided altogether if attention could have been paid to the perilous situation at the company worksite.
Despite having simple methods available for managing as well as even eliminating the factors of risk, the company did not utilize those and let the tragic event took place which was inevitable in some way or the other – given the company’s inability in fulfilling its duty of care (ABC, 2015).
Kenoss Contractors is a Canberra construction company, which has been contracted by the ACT Government for works regarding road resurfacing. The company had contacted subcontractors O’Meley Truck Hire for making several deliveries concerning the project in the year 2012 (Enhance Solutions AU, 2015). Michael Booth was the truck driver who was scheduled to deliver the materials at the Kenoss site where mostly materials were stored. On the fateful day, Mr. Booth had entered the site and the tip of his truck for unloading materials accidentally touched or came too close to the live power lines that were low-hung at the site (ABC, 2015). Upon contact with the low-lying power lines, an electrical arc was formed which not only caused partial deflation of the tyres, but also left burn marks on the ground. The person in concern Mr. Booth after being electrocuted collapsed on the ground and was found lifeless outside the truck (Canberra Times, 2015).
SAFEWORK’S resolution of the issue
The Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) 2011 has its basis on the model WHS Act which has been developed by Safe Work Australia. The prime objective is to ensure that all the workers under Australian jurisdiction receive similar standard of health and safety protection irrespective of their job role or working status (Bong et al. 2015). In this regard, stronger national approach can be realized in order to make sure businesses enjoy great level of certainty and face reduced compliance costs over time. The WHS Act is all for ensuring utmost protection to the workers’ and other people’s health and safety on account of removing or minimizing risk factors that may arise from the workplace ((Dollard & Bailey, 2014).
Under section 18 of WHS Act, the guiding principle focuses on ensuring the highest level of health and safety protection to all people from hazards and risks related to working system or workplace, ‘so far as in reasonably practicable’ (Janackovic, Savic, & Stankovic, 2013). The very term ‘reasonably practicable’ denotes what could possibly be done at a specific time for ensuring whether health and safety measures are in place or not. But in case of Koness, the business authorities had not done anything to safeguard workers and other people’s health and safety within the workplace environment, despite knowing the likelihood of the risks and the degree of harm involved (ABC, 2015). The construction company was fully aware of the availability of the suitable ways for eliminating the hazard and risk factors as well as the cost of risk minimization; but still acted blind to the perilous situation that eventually cost Mr. Booth his life.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) 2004, the main legislation that provides the workers with rights for occupational health and safety – has been grossly violated by the Koness Contractors (Pidd & Roche, 2014). The Canberra construction company was fined a large sum amounting to $1.1 million which is considered pretty big for a medium-sized company, especially when the maximum penalty amount is $1.5 million (Enhance Solutions AU, 2015). SAFEWORK focuses on ensuring the employees receive their respective package of compensation accordingly as per their job roles and specifically when emergency situations like this arise. Though the construction company in concern had gone into liquidation and neither of its representatives nor its liquidators have attended the hearing at the court; seemingly the fine would go unacknowledged (Pidd & Roche, 2014). It has been mentioned by the Industrial Magistrate that the hefty fiscal penalty would not be hampering the insolvent company authorities as it is disappearing from business scene altogether. But nevertheless, the message had been clear-cut as this case of Kenoss is being considered almost the biggest in OHS terms, both from the context of massive fine and the seriousness of the matter.
What could have been done in different manner?
As the insolvent construction company has gone into liquidation, the massive fine would remain unpaid supposedly. Unfortunately, a worker had to die in this case to signify the necessity of workplace safety once again to the entire industry and how far companies are liable to anything that happens to the workers and other people because of the company functioning or work policies. Moreover, investigation revealed that the on-site project manager Al-Hasani had no authority of a safety officer to make decisions or ensure exercise control or authorize the capital expenditure usage; which left Kenoss to be responsible for breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Employsure AU, 2015).
Routine inspection should have been done prior to any casualties because Koness Contractors had a history of neglecting its duty of care in terms of its irresponsibility towards its workers’ health and safety (Hale, Borys, & Adams, 2015). As Australia have now in place new nationally-harmonized work health safety laws, inspection should have been done at regular intervals in order to bring the issue concerning negligence of duty of care to the company authorities, who have shown hardly any remorse at the death of Mr. Booth. The complete lack of liability from the company’s side could have been altered, had the company been reviewed under the new laws because that would have meant the company had to face serious charges without having the option of fleeing. Liquidation process has seemingly left the company vanish without paying the fine for irresponsibility and this certainly could have been changed.
How to address the issue in context of working personally in the workplace?
In case I had worked in the concerned workplace as a management authority, there would have been no safety breaches and certainly no issues regarding compromising on the health and safety of the workers at the workplace. I would have made sure that the company policies are in compliance with the OHS Act as well as WHS Act, which would be focusing on providing the utmost protection of the workers’ health and safety alongside others on the workplace (Dumrak et al. 2013). Moreover, I would have ensured no compromise on the workplace safety in terms of providing a safe and secure work culture where employees can perform to the best of their abilities without having to worry about their safety in their respective workplace (Johnstone, 2013).
In the concluding segment, it can be mentioned that workplace safety is of utmost importance and business authorities need to be hold full responsibility when it comes to their fulfillment of duty of care. The heavy fine imposed on the construction company Kenoss would hopefully be sending a strong message to the business industry regarding the significance and necessity of workplace safety for both employees and others, specifically the well-known risks related to the work activities.