Worker guilty of hindering WorkSafe investigation

The Alice Springs Local Court has convicted and fined a worker $4,000 for hindering a NT WorkSafe investigation into a serious incident at Ambalindum Station in Central Australia.

Ryan Watts, a Queensland based builder, plead guilty to one breach of Section 155 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (the WHS Act) for (without reasonable excuse) failing to comply with a written notice to produce documents and information.

On 8 February 2018, Ryan Watts and two workers he had subcontracted were using a telehandler fitted with a man cage to install downpipes on a new shed at the station. Mr Watts and one of the workers were seriously injured when the man cage they were in broke free and fell over 2 metres.

During NT WorkSafe’s investigation, Mr Watts was issued a notice to produce documents and information as part of the investigation. Mr Watts acknowledged the request for information but failed to provide the information by the specified time.

Acknowledging that he was having a difficult time with his recovery, NT WorkSafe gave Mr Watts an extension. Despite this, Mr Watts failed to meet the new deadline and completely disengaged from the investigation, ignoring NT WorkSafe’s attempts to contact him.

The Northern Territory’s WHS Regulator Mr Esteves said ‘The exercise of powers to gather evidence is fundamentally necessary to monitor and enforce compliance with the WHS Act.

"This is particularly important when what went wrong is not clearly understood, and there is genuine need to find out what can be done to improve workplace practices, to protect workers and others from further harm."

"The discovery and sharing of information involving the identification and management of risk to promote continuous improvement and progressively higher safety standards in the workplace, is very much connected with the WHS Act and the function of the Regulator," Mr Esteves said.

"When there are reasonable grounds for a belief that a person can give information, documents or evidence to assist the Regulator, and all reasonable steps to obtain that evidence have been otherwise exhausted, the Regulator and inspectors may issue a notice requiring their production."

"Breaches of the requirement to produce evidence by ignoring the notice, without a reasonable excuse, are a serious breach of the Act," Mr Esteves said.

Hewitt Cattle Australia Pty Ltd, who owns Ambalindum Station, was also charged over the incident. Their matter has been adjourned to 10:00 AM on 18 August 2020 in the Alice Springs Local Court for a plea.

Peter Chan
0401 114 569