WorkSafe Victoria v Parks Victoria (2021)
In November 2018, two men riding motorbikes in the Narrawong Flora Reserve struck two cable barriers, which were suspended across a track to indicate seasonal road closures, at speeds of 80km/h. Both riders sustained injuries.
At the time of the incident, the cable barriers and attached signage were used to define tracks in the reserve that were subject to seasonal road closure between the Queen’s Birthday and Melbourne Cup weekends.
The Court heard that the website of Parks Victoria, regarding the seasonal road closures, reported: “Many roads and tracks are seasonally closed to vehicle traffic each year. These tracks are closed to vehicles for visitor safety, to maintain water quality and prevent erosion during the wetter months as rain and snow softens the tracks, making them vulnerable to damage … Seasonal road closures generally operate from the long weekend in June through to the end of October, but may be extended due to seasonal conditions … Seasonal road closures for 2018 have finished. However, some tracks extend past the general closure period up until mid-December.”
While this information was reported on the website, there was no inspection regime for checking the removal of barriers and they were in fact not removed when required due to lack of staff.
Parks Victoria pleaded guilty to breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) by exposing persons other than employees to health and safety risks, and was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and to pay costs of $3,639.
This case highlights the duty to protect others who may be impacted by your undertaking. In particular, where there are known hazards remaining at a site, it is the responsibility of the occupier to ensure they are removed.