A stevedoring company has been fined $180,000 after being found guilty of discriminating against a worker who raised health and safety concerns at the Geelong dock.
The case brought by WorkSafe Victoria in the Melbourne Magistrates Court was the first discrimination conviction under workplace health and safety laws introduced in 2004.
The court heard the worker, who was the elected health and safety representative at the Geelong dock, was threatened with dismissal when he raised concerns about a new basket-lifting technique for lifting steel onto ships.
The company pleaded not guilty. In her sentencing remarks, Magistrate Rosemary Carlin said “serious instances of discriminating behaviour” had occurred.
WorkSafe executive director for health and safety Ian Forsyth said the prosecution sent a message to employers that discriminating against whistleblowers was not acceptable.
“Protecting yourself and your co-workers by raising health and safety matters at work isn’t just a right, it’s a necessity,” he said.
A WorkSafe spokesman said the authority was “prosecuting the same company under the Occupation Health and Safety Act on three charges relating to a [separate] safety incident at the Port of Hastings in 2007”.