Wednesday 22 December 2010

Intimidating WorkSafe inspectors comes at a cost

Two men who assaulted, threatened and intimidated WorkSafe inspectors have received suspended prison sentences after being prosecuted by WorkSafe Victoria.

Construction company director Reginald Durmus and employee Serhat Aslan pleaded guilty to charges of inspector assault and intimidation at the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on December 13.

Mr Durmas and Mr Aslan were separately convicted and fined $2,000 and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. Both men were also ordered to pay $6,000 in costs.

Durmas was also convicted and fined a further $1,500 in relation to a separate incident of intimidation and verbal threats.

“Inspectors play an important part in helping to keep Victorian workplaces safe – a job that can be difficult in the best of circumstances,” WorkSafe Victoria’s Executive Director for Health and Safety, Ian Forsyth, said.

“Putting up with aggression or intimidation isn’t part of the job description. When this sort of behaviour occurs, we will always take action,” he said.

The incidents occurred during two separate visits by WorkSafe inspectors to a Pascoe Vale domestic construction site in 2008.

During a visit on May 29, a sole inspector was subjected to intimidation and verbal abuse.

A follow-up visit was carried out by an inspector and an investigator the next day.

During the visit, Mr Durmas became abusive and aggressive. He held a piece of timber in his right hand, tapping it into his left hand to punctuate conversation. He also repeatedly verbally abused both WorkSafe staff. He then grabbed the inspector by the arm and forcibly moved him off the site.

During the course of this exchange, Mr Aslan produced a Stanley knife and continued to flick the blade open and shut in a threatening manner.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director for Health and safety, Ian Forsyth, said inspectors needed the support of employers and workers.

“Our inspectors are just trying to do their jobs – as part of this they have powers to enter workplaces and to speak to people.

“People need to respect this and let them get on with the job which can literally save lives. A moment of hot-headedness can have very serious consequences,” he said.

Previous cases where WorkSafe prosecuted after inspector intimidation included a 2007 incident in Mildura where two men were fined after grabbing an inspector from behind, forcibly restraining him, and taking his camera from him and burying the film.

In the same year, the director of Port Melbourne-based company ‘Executive Golf’ was fined after an inspector trying to enter the company’s premises was subjected to verbal abuse, including obscenities.

Further Information

WorkSafe media enquiries: Rosanna Bonaccurso 0478 305 640

Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email info@worksafe.vic.gov.au or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.