Company Director Sentenced to Jail Time over Worker's Death
*The author would like to make a clarification, as pointed out by Jackson Inglis, Partner at Sparke Helmore Lawyers. Mr Lavin was not convicted of industrial manslaughter; those laws did not commence until after the incident involving Mr Te Amo. Mr Lavin was convicted of reckless conduct, a category-1 offence under S31 of the WHS Act, 2011.
Last week, director of a Brisbane-based roofing company was sentenced to 12-months in jail and slapped with a $1-million fine for the tragic death of a worker in 2014.
Gary Lavin, director of Multi-Run Roofing was found guilty of reckless conduct that led to the death of Whareheeera Keepa Te Amo, who fell six meters to his death on the roof of Wimmers soft drinks’ Cooroy factory.
Judge Glen Cash told the Maroochydore District Court that Mr Lavin had been “motivated by money, in choosing not to erect safety rails at the site, which should have saved Mr Te Amo’s life,” according to ABC reporter Tara Cassidy.
Gary Lavin was contracted by his brother, Peter, also of Lavin Constructions for the roofing job at the Wimmers soft drinks factory. Due to this fact, “both brothers and their companies faced the charges.”
According to the ABC, “In handing down Gary Lavin’s sentence, the judge told the court Mr Lavin had been trying to maximise profits by not paying for rails, despite being paid by his brother Peter Lavin $284,000 to complete the roofing job, inclusive of the cost of safety rails.”
The week-long trial culminated in two days of deliberation from the jury, who delivered a guilty verdict for Gary and his company’s charges.
“During the trial, two witnesses gave testimony that Mr Lavin said the rails would have been too expensive… It was estimated that the price of safety rails would have been about $5,000.”
It is reported that Mr Lavin and his employees had previously agreed to use both safety harnesses and two scissor lifts instead, but they were not used by the workers on the day of the incident.
“You’ve shown a flagrant disregard for proper safety methods, and were motivated by the desire to improve your and your company’s financial position,” Judge Cash told the court.
“Your conduct was so serious you must serve a period of time in custody.”
“The risk was significant to those on the live edge (edge of the roof), the margin for error was narrow, and any fall would have had tragic consequences.” Judge Cash concluded.
According to the ABC, “Judge Cash acknowledged that Mr Lavin was remorseful for the incident, and had suffered himself as a result, and would not be renewing his roofing licence.”
To put this into context, Queensland first enacted industrial manslaughter provisions in October of 2017. These provisions, according to WorkSafe Queensland "make it an offence for a person conducting business... to negligently cause the death of a worker. In particular, this offence applies if: a worker dies, or is injured and later dies, in the course of carrying out work for the business."