Sanctions accepted over fishing vessel fatality

NT WorkSafe has accepted an enforceable undertaking from an Australian fishing company Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd and will withdraw charges against the company related to death of a deckhand in 2013.

Following investigation, NT WorkSafe charged Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd with a breach of Section 32 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 over a 2013 incident which saw a deck hand electrocuted when a wave breached the deck while he was using an electric angle grinder. The grinder was plugged into an electrical socket that was not protected by a residual current device.

Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd has entered into a legally-binding agreement to spend $967,700 on activities to improve the health and safety of its workers, the NT fishing industry and provide benefits to the wider community.

The activities include:

  • Develop and implement an online learning management system for all Austral employees, workers and contractors.
  • Employ a dedicated workplace health and safety advisor.
  • Purchasing and maintaining defibrillators for all Austral fleet vessels.
  • Provide funding to create a project (SeSafe) with a national focus for the Australian wild capture fishing industry.
  • Provide and present lessons learned from the incident to various forums around Australia.
  • Employ a dedicated senior executive to help develop and implement the SeSafe project and to develop strategies to engage the broader fishing industry.
  • Sponsor the National Seafood Industry Safety Award in memory of the young worker in 2019 and 2021.
  • Donate to the Sea Shepherd for a full scale beach clean-up in conjunction with traditional owners on the Wessel Islands.
  • Provide $50,000 to the Tiwi College Junior Indigenous Guide program.
  • Further provide $50,000 to make the SeSafe modules available to NT Training establishments to improve safety in the general NT fishing industry.
  • Contribute and seek to raise up to $1 million to provide extension and legacy support for the SeSafe project.

Executive Director of NT WorkSafe Stephen Gelding said Austral Fisheries has expressed sincere regret for the young worker who died on one of its vessels and the company is dedicated to improving safety across the fishing industry.

“The company has already implemented a number of safety improvements costing more than $200,000 and has proposed a further $967,700 for further industry and community safety improvements and initiatives,” Mr Gelding said

“The SeSafe project will raise awareness and improve safety performance across the seafood industry. The project complements other industry safety initiatives and has gained significant industry support.”

“The accepted undertaking contained a number of activities aimed at improving safety and building the capacity of young Territorians working in the fishing industry, which would not be available through a court-imposed penalty.”

Christine Bond
8985 8601