Business owner pleads guilty to gross negligence

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. 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.

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.

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.

Source: ABC News

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