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Prosecution Details

Offender State of Western Australia - Responsible Agency: Department of Corrective Services


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 KA326/11 27 January 2008 7th July 2011 3A(3)(b)(i) $285,000.00 7th July 2011
Description of Breach(es)

Being a person that had, to any extent, control of a workplace where persons who were not its employees worked or were likely to be in the course of their work, did not take such measures as were practicable to ensure that the workplace was such that persons at the workplace were not exposed to hazards, and by that contravention caused the death of  Mr Ward.

Background Details

The State had a contract with the GSL Custodial Services Pty Ltd, now known as G4S Custodial Services Pty Ltd (G4S) 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 dies as a result died as a result of heatstroke.

It was alleged that it was reasonably practicable for the State to ensure that G4S had systems of work in place to ensure that, before and during the trip, 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 the State to have installed a temperature monitor in the rear pod of the van, and to have ensured that G4S had a system of work in place 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. The incident was not only foreseeable, but was known or at the very least should have been known by the State. The vans had been used for 8 years. In 2001, following a Report from the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services raising concerns about the air conditioning systems in the prisoner transport vehicles a report was supplied to the State which provided that the vehicles and air conditioning systems were not designed to be operating in some areas, and should only be used in the metropolitan area. In 2007 the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services recommended the State include communication systems between the cabin and cells, and robust climate control in to the vans.

The practicable measures were found to be relatively simple, inexpensive and quick to implement.

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.

The State 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, as the contracting out of services is a widespread practice across many branches of government, local government and private industry.

The State's early plea of guilty, ex gratia payment - which showed contrition and remorse by the State and quick rectification of the hazards all featured as mitigating factors.

Outcome Summary

Plea of Guilty

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Kalgoorlie
Costs $15,000.00

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