A small business owner is facing the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to gross negligence that resulted in the death of a young worker on Western Australia’s south coast last year.
- Jake Williams, 25, died in March last year after falling off a shed on a farm near Esperance
- Co-worker Fraser Pinchin, 21, was seriously injured in the same incident
- Shed building company MT Sheds and its director, Mark Thomas Withers, faced a total of seven separate charges in court today
Mark Thomas Withers, the sole director of shed building company MT Sheds, appeared in the Esperance Magistrates Court today via audio-link and entered endorsed pleas of guilty.
Two workers employed by his company in March last year were installing roofing on a shed at a farm in Beaumont, about 100 kilometres east of Esperance, when they were hit by strong winds.
The willy-willy lifted a sheet from the pack of roof sheets they were installing and caused both workers to fall.
Unlicensed for high-risk work
Jake Williams, 25, died after falling around 9 metres from the apex of the shed.
According to an online crowd-funding campaign set up for his family after his death, Mr Williams was a father of three.
His 21-year-old co-worker, Fraser Pinchin, suffered multiple fractures of the pelvis, hip, wrist and ribs after falling about 7 metres from the shed’s gutter line.
WorkSafe’s investigation found that neither worker held the necessary high-risk work licences for the job they were performing.
Penalty up to 5 years in prison
The safety regulator also said that MT Sheds allowed Mr Williams to do construction work without a construction induction training certificate, known as a white card.
It is one of the first cases in WA since harsher penalties were introduced for breaches of workplace safety laws.
For gross negligence, Withers could face a maximum penalty of a $550,000 fine and five years’ imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for a company found guilty of gross negligence is a $2.7 million fine.
Withers will be sentenced in Esperance on May 24.