WorkSafe WA is now investigating the death of Mr Ward
Protesters yesterday expressed outrage at the decision by the state’s Department of Public Prosecutions not to pursue criminal charges against those that contributed to the death of Mr Ward in 2008 and will now investigate.
Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder, died from heatstroke in 2008 after being locked up in the back of a prison van with a broken air-conditioner.
The workplace regulator could have investigated the death under Section 21 (2) of the Occupational Safety and Heath Act which requires an employer to ensure the health and safety of a person who is not an employee is not adversely affected by work being undertaken.
While its investigators had discussed Mr Ward’s death after it was reported in the media, “the decision was taken not to investigate the death because police and other agencies had commenced investigations,” WorkSafe said.
“WorkSafe considered that a police investigation was more appropriate because the charges and penalties available under their legislation were stronger and more appropriate,” it said.
The incident was not reported to WorkSafe either. But if it did investigate and found a breach, the maximum penalty would be $400,000 under the Act.
Given the recent decision by the WA DPP not to pursue criminal charges over Mr Ward’s death, it now says it will reconsider an investigation.
“Given the circumstances, WorkSafe is now reconsidering an investigation. When the Coroner's decision has been fully considered, a decision will be made,” WorkSafe said in a statement initially issued to newswire service, the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“Prosecution action would not be considered until all the evidence was fully considered, and then only if the terms of WorkSafe's Prosecution Policy were met,” it added.
WA Premier this week promised to fulfil a commitment he had made in March to pay the family of Mr Ward $200,000 as compensation.