Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd

Date accepted:22 June 2018
Proposed expenditure:$967,700
Date discharged:15 October 2020
Actual expenditure:$1,388,172


On 29 November 2013 an accident occurred on an Australian fishing company Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd vessel “Newfish 1” in the Gulf of Carpentaria while travelling to Cairns from fishing activities.

A deckhand was 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.

Alleged breach:

It was alleged that Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd failed to comply with health and safety duties under Section 32 of the Work Health Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act (the Act).

Summary of work health and safety undertaking:

An undertaking given by Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd in relation to the alleged contraventions has been accepted by the Regulator as an enforceable undertaking under Part 11 of the Act.

Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd has committed to spend $967,700 (minimum) on a range of activities to improve health and safety in the workplace and deliver health and safety initiatives to the wider community especially focused on the fishing and related industries.  The amount spent on work health and safety activities to date is in excess of $200,000 (not included below). The activities include:

  • Develop and implement an online learning management system (LMS) 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.

The financial commitment of the activities proposed in the undertaking are:

  • workers or the workplace – $510,200;
  • industry - $307,500, and
  • the community - $150,000.

Reasons for regulator acceptance

The regulator accepted the WHS undertaking under section 216 of the Act and is satisfied that this undertaking offers significant and ongoing commitments to achieve improved work health and safety outcomes and compliance beyond what is required by the law. The regulator believes the WHS undertaking offers a similar deterrent to a successful legal proceeding and will result in a tangible improvement to safety in the workplace, industry and in the community.