The West Australian, 28 June 2019
The mother of a teenage worker who fell to his death on a Perth building site has welcomed charges laid against her son’s employers, but says her fight for justice is far from over.
Wesley Ballantine, 17, fell 12m through a skylight in January 2017 while working on clothing retailer H&M’s Perth city store.
His mother, Regan Ballantine, said yesterday she was satisfied contractor Valmont WA, her son’s direct employer Industrial Construction Services and two company bosses had been hit with the strongest possible charges.
But she said the laws were inadequate when compared to the penalties for other negligent acts that led to a person’s death.
“Is the value of life considered the same on a work site versus any other ordinary citizen who acts negligently? No it’s not,” Ms Ballantine said.
“If you are convicted of a high level of negligence causing death on a workplace you are fined, which your insurer pays out on, and you can just continue on operating your business and being responsible for employees. How is that equitable.
“It is grossly unfair and grossly inadequate and this is why there needs to be reforms to place equal value on the life of ever human no matter where they are killed. It’s time that we level the playing field and treat every life with the same respect and value.”
Ms Ballantine said she would continue to push for reforms to workplace safety, including the introduction of industrial manslaughter legislation in WA.
Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston has flagged his intention to introduce industrial manslaughter laws to State Parliament before the end of the year.
Ms Ballantine also raised the need to speed up investigations and prosecutions for the sake of families of the victims.
“The reality is it has been two and a half years, it will be two years in court and a two-year coronial inquest,” she said. “Six and a half years is the reality before I stop getting phone calls in the middle of my workday about procedural things. It takes its toll, it really takes its toll.
“You are talking about a human life and death and it needs to be tightened up just out of pure empathy for the families who have lost lives and the impact that it has on recovery and being able to move on.”
Valmont WA, and has been charged with failing to ensure a person who was not their employees was not exposed to hazards. Industrial Construction Services has been charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment which led to Wesley’s death.
The company’s director Adam Tony Forsyth and manager Luke Fraser Corderoy, have been charged over the Wesley’s death.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said the prosecution was an important step in an extensive process.
“These prosecutions are the culmination of a thorough investigative process,” Mr Kavanagh said. “As the cases are now in the hands of the courts, WorkSafe will not be making any further comment.”