Readers may be aware that, compared with many other nations, Australia has particularly strict occupational health and safety laws, with significant penalties for breaches.


In a recent example, two employees of a company were personally criminally prosecuted, and significant fines were imposed, for breaches of work health and safety legislation.


One employee squirted flammable liquid onto a co-worker’s boot, ignited the liquid with a cigarette lighter, and chased the employee around while he was lit on fire. The other employee took no steps to stop his colleague and in fact squirted more flammable liquid onto the victim’s shirt while it was burning. Unsurprisingly, the victim was injured and was lucky to escape death or serious injury.


Even after significant discounts for early guilty pleas, the offending employees were personally fined AUD$21,000 and AUD$12,000. This is of course a fairly extreme example of dangerous workplace conduct. However, it is important for readers to note that Australian work health and safety regulators are particularly proactive in their measures to identify and prosecute companies and individuals for breaches of the law. Contraventions may result in monetary fines or, in serious cases, imprisonment.


Businesses with operations in Australia should also be cognisant of the fact that work health and safety laws throughout Australia apply to all persons engaged by an employer, whether they be an employee, contractor or volunteer.


For more information please contact Sathish Dasan on +61-8-8210-1253 or