The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has charged national waste management company Cleanaway with breaching federal work health and safety laws over an incident two years ago where a worker was injured at its Canberra facility.
A Comcare investigation into Cleanaway resulted in the matter being referred to the CDPP and a single charge being filed in the ACT Magistrates Court and announced on Tuesday (13 June).
The charge alleges Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd failed in its duties under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).
On 4 June 2021, at the company’s waste and recycling depot in Hume, a worker performing routine maintenance had his hand caught in a machine that compresses cardboard and plastics into bales.
The worker was treated in hospital at the time for multiple fractures and lacerations to fingers.
Comcare is the national authority for workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation.
It is a statutory authority of the Australian Federal Government established under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) and covered by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).
Headquartered in Canberra, with offices in every state and territory, Comcare administers the Commonwealth’s workers’ compensation scheme under the SRC Act and the WHS Act.
The Comcare scheme provides a system for work health and safety, rehabilitation and compensation for employers in Australia.
Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd is a licenced national employer in the Comcare scheme and is therefore subject to regulation under Commonwealth work health and safety laws.
The company now faces a charge of a Category 2 criminal offence under the WHS Act, carrying a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.
It is alleged Cleanaway failed to provide a safe system of work and training for workers by failing to install guarding to prevent access to the internal moving parts of the baling machine, and failing to provide workers with information and training to isolate power to the machine during maintenance.
The matter is listed for mention in the ACT Magistrates Court on 20 July 2023.
A Boxing Day fire last year at the Hume facility, caused by thermal runaway from lithium-ion battery contamination, swept through the site, rendering the facility no longer suitable for processing recycled material.
The Commonwealth and territory governments have already guaranteed $21 million towards the construction of a new recycling facility, with the ACT government seeking a consortium partner for a new plant at Hume.
The new Materials Recovery Facility will have more than double the capacity of the old plant, and will be able to process 115,000 tonnes of cardboard, glass, aluminium and plastic each year.