Sentence handed down for 2016 workplace death

Released 20/04/2020

The ACT Supreme Court today handed down the sentence to Mr Michael Watts, crane driver, for the death of a worker in August 2016 at the University of Canberra Hospital construction site.

A total of nine parties, including seven people and two companies, were charged by WorkSafe ACT in April 2018 with multiple offences following the long and complex investigation into the tragic death of a worker that occurred while a mobile crane at the site was moving a large generator.

Mr Michael Watts pleaded guilty to a high-level breach of work health and safety legislation on 12 February 2020 and today was sentenced by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to 20 months imprisonment reduced to 12 months with a 40% discount for an early plea and cooperation. The 12 months imprisonment sentence will be wholly suspended.

The maximum penalty for an individual under this Category One offence for failing to comply with a duty exposing persons to a risk of serious injury or death under WHS legislation, is $300,000 and five-years imprisonment or both.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner, Greg Jones said the outcome is a very strong reminder to the industry that workplace safety must be the number one priority and all efforts must be made to keep workers safe.

“Every supervisor, manager and director on any worksite must continually review and mitigate workplace risks. They also need to ensure their workers understand and follow all safety systems and procedures so they can do their job safely.”

“The consequences and penalties for failing to meet safety obligations and responsibilities are far too high to be complacent”.

WorkSafe ACT will continue its strong approach to compliance and enforcement to ensure all workplaces are doing the right thing to keep their workers safe from harm.

Mr Jones acknowledged the difficult time that the deceased worker’s family has faced since their tragic loss including an emotional day in court providing victim impact statements.

- Statement ends -

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