ACT News

Commercial bakery one of several facing work safety prosecution

A commercial bakery whose alleged failings saw a customer hit by a prime mover while picking up stale bread was one of several companies before the ACT's new specialised industrial court on Tuesday. 

Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has warned that the cases show authorities will not hesitate to refer companies for prosecution for serious breaches of law.

"The employers in court today are all facing potentially substantial penalties and I can only hope this will be seen by all parties as a deterrent to anyone not complying with their health and safety obligations," he said.

The Buttercup Bakery, owned by Quality Bakers Australia Pty Ltd, stands accused of failing in its safety duty after an accident one December morning in 2012.

One of its customers, Julie Arbalis, was at the bakery's depot on Gladstone Street, queuing to pick up hundreds of loaves of stale bread to use as stock feed, something she had been doing since 2005.

The loading dock area was full, so Ms Arbalis parked her car on nearby concrete, as she had in the past.

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A reversing prime mover struck her as she stood near her car, where she had been writing a cheque for payment.

The impact pushed her back onto her car, before she fell forward onto the concrete. 

The driver, who worked for a different company, got out and went to her aid.

She was taken to hospital by paramedics with a serious knee injury.

The entire incident was recorded by CCTV footage, and later investigated by WorkSafe ACT.

Court documents allege Quality Bakers owed a health and safety duty to all persons using its loading dock during business hours, including its customers.

It is alleged that the bakery failed to stop people parking on the concrete, failed to put up signs to stop people from parking there, and failed to provide a designated parking area for people waiting to use the loading dock.

The company also allegedly failed to appoint a supervisor to watch over the activities at the loading dock area. 

The matter appeared before Industrial Magistrate Lorraine Walker on Tuesday, but no individual from the company appeared. 

Barrister Steven Whybrow asked for an adjournment of the case, and it will reappear again next month. 

A plea to the charge may be entered on the next occasion. 

The Buttercup case was one of three work safety prosecutions mentioned in the ACT Industrial Court on Tuesday.

In the case against Corporate Ventures (Australia), trading as Bowsers, the DPP is seeking a fine of up to $1.5 million over the fall of young construction worker Jayson Bush while working on the Nishi building.

Likewise, the related prosecutions of Iqon and Nexus Electrical were mentioned, a case involving a worker who was resuscitated after receiving an electric shock at the Canberra Hospital redevelopment. That case occurred in 2011 and is being prosecuted under the previous Work Safety Act 2008, which allows for a maximum fine of $165,000.

"The listing of three more work health and safety matters in the Magistrates Court today indicates that WorkSafe will continue to refer serious breaches of health and safety legislation to the DPP for prosecution," ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said.

"WorkSafe would much rather be working with companies to help them to improve their record, but will not hesitate to refer matters for prosecution when it believes serious breaches have occurred."

The cases against Corporate Ventures (Australia) and Iqon and Nexus Electrical will reappear next month.