On the December 5 last year, the NSW Major Loss team headed to the Supreme Court of NSW to attend a mock trial on workplace health and safety.
A mock trial helps people to understand the effect of a safety breach, without the pain
The idea was to learn about the consequences of what happens when things go wrong at work.
For the Advanced Buildings team, the trial was a definite eye-opener!
It featured stories from real-life workplace accidents, and how the lives of those involved can be changed forever.
Lives changed through avoidable accidents – stories from the workplace
Nicole Gallagher, National Safety Advisor, reports on what went on and the lessons learnt.
Before the court proceedings began, the leading prosecutor shared some in-depth and heartfelt stories, based on real-life situations.
He had the audience captivated within the first 30 seconds. You could hear gasps from many of the people in the room.
The one story that really touched my heart was a father who lost both his arms in a workplace accident. Yes, the accident was preventable. But on that day, shortcuts were taken and a lack of supervision led to a disaster.
Although the worker survived, he tragically lost both arms. To many, losing your arms would mean learning to live again. Never being able to work again, to drive a car, to play instruments or to play sports.
But for this unfortunate worker, the saddest aspect was that he would be unable to hug his children again. The one thing we all take for granted is embracing our loved ones. This story reminded us that, in a blink of an eye, this could be changed forever.
The trial went for about two hours.
A workplace death reminds us that safety is paramount
Another company was fined for the death of a worker who had been fatally struck by a forklift.
Three witnesses were called to the stand. The driver of the forklift, the shift supervisor and the director of the company. The prosecutor directed questions to each witness about how they approached safety and if they thought safety had been their first priority.
Even though this was a mock trial, the witnesses squirmed under the intensive interrogation they received.
The audience was also squirming!
I think it really hit home to all present what the consequences could be when safety is lax. We were thankful it wasn’t a real situation involving our own workplace.
The consequences of a safety breach are substantial
After all the witnesses took the stand, the judge handed down the sentence.
The company was fined $720,000, with 21 days to pay. The company’s director was personally liable to pay a fine of $310,000, to be paid within 21 days.
We were all in shock at the punishment the court handed down.
After the trial, I asked the team members who attended to provide some feedback.
They all came back with the same impression.
How easy it was for an accident to happen if safety wasn’t the #1 priority. How the consequences are not just for the directors of the company, but for all involved. And most of all, how it can dramatically impact so many lives.