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Prosecution Details

Offender G4S Custodial Services Pty Ltd (ACN 050 069 255)

Charges

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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 KA327/11 27 January 2008 12th August 2011 3A(3)(b)(i) $285,000.00 12th August 2011
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer failed, so far as was practicable, to ensure that the safety or health of a person not being its employee, was not adversely affected wholly or in part as a result of any hazard that arose from or was increased by the system of work that had been or was being operated by the accused, and by that contravention caused the death of, or serious harm, to Ian Ward.

Background Details

G4S Custodial Services Pty Ltd (G4S) had a contract with the State of Western Australia pursuant to which the State engaged G4S to supply it with services that included the movement of persons in custody. The vans used to transport the persons in custody were supplied by the State and could only be physically altered with the agreement of the State.

On 27 January 2008, Mr Ward was being transported from Laverton to Kalgoorlie by G4S in the rear pod of a van owned by the State. The trip was over 360km and took more than three and a half hours.

The rear pod of the van was made entirely of metal with limited airflow, limited light through the only window, which was heavily meshed and located at the rear of the pod, only sidewards-facing seats with sharp edges and no safety restraints.

In a re-enactment of the journey the temperature in the rear pod was measured at 50.4 degrees. On the day of the journey, 27 January 2008, the temperatures were higher than on the day of the re-enactment. As a result of exposure to those temperatures, Mr Ward suffered heatstroke. He collapsed in the rear pod of the van suffering a laceration around his left eyebrow and a large serious burn on the side of his stomach. Mr Ward was taken to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital where his body temperature was recorded as 41.7, 41, 41 and 41 degrees over a 35 minute period. Normal body temperature is 36-37 degrees. Mr Ward died as a result of heatstroke.

It was alleged that it was reasonably practicable for G4S to have in place systems of work to ensure that, before and during the trip, the drivers employed by G4S checked that the air conditioning in the rear pod was working effectively, the temperature in the rear pod and whether the van was safe to be used. It was further alleged that it was reasonably practicable for G4S to have had a system of work in place requiring drivers to check whether persons in custody knew how to communicate with the drivers in the front pod and get their attention.

By failing to implement those practicable measures Mr Ward was exposed to the hazard of heatstroke.

G4S knew about the condition of the van. Although G4S took over the contract to transport persons in custody in July 2007, and probably inherited the vehicles and systems in the state they were in, it did so having determined it was capable of meeting all of its responsibilities.

It was found that the implementation of the practicable measures could not have been easier, and in all likelihood would have prevented the tragedy that occurred.

Mr Ward was found to be in a position of extreme vulnerability as a person in custody. He did not make a decision to be at the workplace like an employee might do so, nor did he have the ability to make an informed decision to some degree in assessing the risks to which he was exposed.

G4S failed to take any of the practicable measures and was found to have constituted a serious breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Specific deterrence did not feature significantly in determining the penalty. General deterrence was of particular importance.

G4S' guilty plea at a relatively early opportunity, the unreserved expression of contrition and apology to the family by G4S' managing director, the changes that have subsequently been implemented by G4S to swiftly rectify the breach of its duties, co-operation with the investigation and clear record factors mitigating the offence.




Outcome Summary

Plea of Guilty

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Kalgoorlie
Costs $11,088.00

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