Ashurst fields a leading workplace health and safety team with a strong client roster consisting of both public and private clients, including state and federal government agencies, major infrastructure companies and energy and resources businesses. The team is highly adept at advising on major safety incidents regarding fatalities and serious incidents, prosecutions and work-related coronial inquests, in addition to advising officers on personal liability work. Compliance and governance mandates are also handled by the team. Lea Constantine heads up the team from Sydney and frequently advises boards and senior officers on compliance issues. Brisbane-based James Hall has particular expertise in the coal arena and is sought after for advise in Queensland, and Trent Sebbens is skilled in industrial relations.
Labour and employment: workplace health and safety (WHS) in Australia
‘The team goes above and beyond to meet our needs.’
‘Incredibly responsive, well informed and familiar with this particular industry and its regulators across Australia.’
‘Lea Constantine is always available to give a quick suggestion on how to appropriately respond in investigations and in slower litigation/prosecution alike. Systematic and able to anticipate regulator behaviours in a way that allows me to prepare the board for next steps.’
‘James Hall is incredibly responsive, strategic and commercial.’
‘Ian Humphreys has enormous experience and always looks to provide the personal touch to assist our business.’
University of Sydney
Commonwealth Government of Australia
University of Tasmania
Sports Integrity Australia
- Acting for Anglo American at a Board of Inquiry into 41 methane gas related incidents at Queensland underground coal mines between 1 July 2019 and 6 May 2020, and the serious accident that injured five coal mine workers at Anglo American’s Grosvenor Mine on 6 May 2020.
- Acting for the Victorian Government on the joint Commonwealth-Victorian funded program of rail line and other infrastructure upgrades across Victoria’s regional rail network.
- Advising and assisting a manufacturer, (BOC) Linde, in relation to third party inquiries into a fatality and injury.
Clyde & Co LLP
As one of the strongest workplace health and safety teams in Australia, Clyde & Co LLP has strength in the construction, infrastructure, energy, transport and logistics sectors. Adept at handling litigation, prosecutions and investigations, the practice is regularly called upon to handle complex and high-profile mandates involving injuries, fatalities and major incidents in the workplace. The team also benefits from the firm’s global relationships with insurers. Michael Tooma leads the team and has recently advised on major safety incidents. Alena Titterton has expertise in handling prosecutions, class actions and inquiries, and has a particular niche in acting for aged care service providers. Kiri Jervis is also a key member of the team who was promoted to partner in May 2020.
- Represented one of the security companies engaged in the Hotel Quarantine Program and in particular, the security company engaged to provide security services at the Rydges hotel during the Hotel Quarantine Program.
- Defended a client who was charged with dangerous navigating of a vessel occasioning death in a high-profile jury trial.
Herbert Smith Freehills
The strong WHS team at Herbert Smith Freehills covers the whole range of work in this area. Handling advisory work, investigations, inquests and prosecutions, the team also has a core focus on advising on some of the biggest industrial relations mandates in Australia, as well as fatalities within the mining sector, which Anthony Longland is particular active in. The energy and resources, transport and manufacture sectors are also key areas of expertise for the practice, and Aaron Anderson (Brisbane) advises both government departments and private sector clients in these industries. Steve Bell (Melbourne) leads the Asia Pacific health and safety team and was appointed regional head of the employment, industrial relations and safety team in 2021; he is frequently called upon by clients to handle the legal, reputational and operational issues relating to serious workplace incidents. Special counsel Nerida Jessup is also active in the space, handling safety governance, compliance and crisis management work.
The workplace relations, employment and safety team at Clayton Utz has an impressive client roster, including national and multinational companies; areas of work include major incident response issues and compliance matters. The practice has substantial expertise in advising on issues from the energy and resources industry, in addition to the corporate, construction, dangerous goods and higher education sectors. Shae McCartney leads the national team from Brisbane and Saul Harben (Perth) is particularly active in the energy and resources arena. Hilary Searing (Brisbane) is adept at handling major health and safety incidents, whilst Jennifer Wyborn (Canberra) is strong in the government sector. The in-house forensic team also supports the group, helping to deliver evidence efficiently.
Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Ltd
Tiger Airways Pty Ltd
Regional Express Airlines
Gladstone Airport Corporation
Brisbane Airport Corporation
The Department of Home Affairs
Australian Federal Police
Australian Public Service Commission
Defence Housing Australia
Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet
Department of Defence
Australia Taxation Office
Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business
Department of Health
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Department of Home Affairs
Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
The University of Melbourne
University of Sydney
University of Queensland
University of New South Wales
Australian National University
University of Western Australia
Western Sydney University
University of Canberra
James Cook University
Notre Dame University
Charles Darwin University.
Lendlease Building Pty Ltd
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Gold Fields Australia Pty Ltd
City of Casey
Moreton Bay & Moreton Bay Boys
Townsville Hospital and Health Service
Volvo Group Australia
Collins Foods Limited
Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations
Department of Health and Human Services (Vic)
Toyota Motor Corporation
Gold Fields Australia
National Road and Motorists’ Association
TJX/ TK Maxx
Amazon Web Services
Australian Building and Construction Commissioner
Registered Organisations Commission
Fair Work Commission
Gold Fields Australia
Glencore / Minara Resources
Resolute Gold Mining
Consolidated Minerals and Korea Zinc
Cross River Rail Delivery Authority
- Advised Stockland on the legal implications for temperature testing across its business and whether it met its health and safety obligations in response to the management of the pandemic.
- Advising the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on the WHS obligations of the Commonwealth in the context of transitioning to the New Employment Services Trial, which is being developed to replace the former Jobactive scheme for job-seeker participants.
- Acted for Sun Metals Corporation Pty Ltd in relation to an incident which occurred at the SMC refinery in 2015 in which an employee was fatally injured by a hydraulic arm, eventually securing the first successful judicial review of a decision by the Regulator to reject a WHS Undertaking under section 216 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).
Specialist employment firm Kingston Reid was established in late 2019 and has a strong national presence with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. The group supports national and international corporate clients, advising on significant workplace incident investigations, prosecutions and coronial proceedings, in addition to educating clients with due diligence training. In particular, the team has sector expertise in the construction, mining and resources, transport and logistics, health and aged care, and government arenas. Team head John Makris (Sydney) has strong relationships with regulators and employers. Both Duncan Fletcher and Michael Stutley are based in Perth and have substantial expertise in occupational health and safety matters.
‘Dedicated workplace/employment/safety firm makes it fairly unique.’
‘Great subject knowledge and offer sensible, practical advice. Collaborate well to work through solutions relevant for the business. Understand our business model well and have knowledge of the stakeholders.’
‘John Makris very easy to deal with, is very practical and he always give us advice and is very courteous. His information and assistance is always greatly appreciated.’
‘Duncan Fletcher is a considerate partner who makes himself available for sensitive matters and provides clear advice to the senior management in the organisation. His knowledge of IR matters and WHS matters has made him an invaluable resource for our organisation. He is trusted, competent and goes above and beyond.’
‘John Makris is always available and suits our style.’
John Holland Group
McConnell Dowell Constructors
Opal Aged Care
NSW Police Force
Transport for NSW
Fire & Rescue NSW
- Advised and represented an ASX-listed telecoms company in relation to a workplace fatality involving a contractor.
- Advised and represented a national rail freight provider in relation to a fatal train incident.
- Advised a global packaging and recycling solutions provider in relation to a serious workplace incident involving multiple pieces of plant and equipment.
Maddocks has a standalone work safety and people team, advising businesses, corporations and government agencies. The group handles a wide range of WHS matters, including workplace incident responses, due diligence training, defence of safety prosecutions and prosecutions for regulators and coronial inquests. The team also provides sexual harassment training for in-house counsel. Catherine Dunlop (Melbourne) and Bruce Heddle (Sydney) jointly lead the group; Dunlop is recognised for her public sector work, acting for government agencies as well as the emergency services, and Heddle is adept at acting for private companies including financial institutions, transport companies and telecoms clients.
Other key lawyers:
‘Client focused. Strong understanding of the WHS environment. Responsive.’
‘Strong content knowledge developed over many years working with the emergency services sector.’
‘Openness, collaboration. Solid advice which has proven itself over time’
‘The team are very approachable and down to earth. Every interaction has been positive and the flexible approach to delivery during Covid was much appreciated.’
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Commonwealth)
Australian Antarctic Division
Victorian Department of Health
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Fire Rescue Victoria
Mott McDonald Australia
Director of National Parks
Allianz Australia Limited
Department of Regional NSW
Special Broadcasting Service
Department of Families, Fairness & Housing (Vic)
Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
- Acting for Department of Regional NSW in the prosecution of Peak Gold Mine after the death of a contract worker who was working underground at the mine at the commencement of scheduled maintenance work on the mine’s ventilation system.
- Defending the Department of the Environment and Energy (Commonwealth) in a prosecution under the Work Health and Safety Act which is currently on appeal to the ACT Supreme Court.
- Assisting the Director of National Parks with a safety review following an accident in remote Northern Territory, involving complex issues of appropriate safety systems in remote areas, language and cultural issues and use of contractors.
The practice at Minter Ellison acts for private sector businesses, state and federal government departments and agencies, handling WHS incident response issues, advising on industrial relations and discrimination matters, and providing general advisory work and training programmes. The team is also adept at handling regulatory prosecutions and representing clients in contentious proceedings. Sector focuses include the construction, energy and resources, education, and transport and logistics industries. Brisbane-based Samantha Betzien is head of the national safety practice and is highly skilled in safety incident investigations, as is Craig Boyle in Perth. Harriet Eager leads the safety and wellness team in Sydney and has experience in WHS and employment law mandates generally.
‘Depth of experience is second to none.’
Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions
Catholic Education Office
Energy Queensland Limited
Goodyear and Dunlop Tyres
- Acting for the Department of Health on a range of work, health and safety matters including conducting a re-write of a key component of its safety management system and advising on governance systems in the context of multiple and concurrent duty holders.
- Acting for Mount Isa Mines and its Site Senior Executive in a prosecution under the Mining Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (Qld) in Queensland.
- Acting for an energy provider in relation to strategic risk management safety issues on the electrical services network.
The team at Norton Rose Fulbright is adept at responding to high-profile safety incidents, advising on regulatory enforcement actions and defending criminal prosecutions. The practice also offers training around WHS issues and corporate and director obligations, in addition to assisting corporations with sexual harassment matters. The global nature of the firm also means that the group can advise international clients on WHS mandates. Katherine Morris heads up the team with particular expertise in the energy and infrastructure sectors.
‘Work Health and Safety law can be quite complex so there is a need for practitioners to be willing to spend the time to understand the specifics of each situation in order to give the best advice. I have found the NRF team to be very willing to spend the time to understand the needs of the client and to ensure they are best positioned to provide sound advice.’
‘Always ahead of recent legal updates and providing brief and succinct summaries of what it means for our business. Offers tailored assistance to directors on how to discharge their due diligence obligations.’
‘Excellent responsiveness and understanding of the business.’
‘Katherine spent the time to understand our needs and to see the measures we had in place. This enabled Katherine to speak to our people in a way that showed she understood what our work entailed and what was being done to keep our people safe.’
‘Katherine Morris is a stand-out. She takes the time to understand the business, culture and people and tailors her advice to those circumstances. She is responsive and proactive.’
Laing O’Rourke Australia
Saxon Energy Services Australia
Acciona Infrastructure Company
Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (VIC)
Veolia Environmental Services
- Acting for a Victorian government department, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, facing criminal prosecution under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic).
- Advised a leading Australian energy infrastructure business on numerous safety issues and incidents, including in relation to an incident involving the failure of a power station, including providing all crisis response legal advice associated services.
- Acting for a global engineering, construction, building and maintenance contractor in relation to a near miss fatal rail incident including guiding the investigation and interactions with witnesses and regulators.
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Darren Perry (Sydney), Paul Cutrone (Sydney) and Penny Stevens (Melbourne) all jointly sit at the helm of the WHS team at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which provides incident response advice to clients and also assists with advisory work, risk analysis and post-incident support. Cutrone is skilled in cross-border mandates, exemplifying the firm’s domestic and international capabilities, while Stevens joined the firm in September 2020 from Sparke Helmore Lawyers, and counsel Marissa Dreher, senior associate Gina Carosi and associate Sam Gray joined the group in Melbourne. Sarah Goodhew is a prominent name in the group, having been promoted to partner in early 2020, and with expertise in the transport, retail and resources sectors.
‘Pragmatic advice which focuses on practical solutions.’
- Developed a “legal compliance tracker” to present key changes to legal and guidance materials and provided the daily legal compliance tracker on an ongoing basis to assist with ongoing legal compliance at some of Australia’s largest businesses.
- Represented a copper mine in its defence of prosecution proceedings commenced in the NSW District Court.
- Provided workplace safety board briefings to fifteen of Australia’s leading employers.
Colin Biggers & Paisley
The national employment and safety team at Colin Biggers & Paisley has substantial experience handling matters in the construction, education and aged and community care industry sectors, with a particular focus on the mining sector. Its range of work includes safety management issues, incident response mandates and prosecution defence. Megan Bowe leads the national team from Sydney and Greg McCann, who is also based in Sydney, is particularly adept at responding to WHS incidents.
Springvale Coal Pty Ltd
Clarence Coal Pty Ltd
Brisbane Catholic Education
- Acted for Springvale Coal Pty Ltd in managing the response to an incident relating to its underground coal operations, when, in July 2018, an operator of the continuous mining machine was struck by an item and received injuries.
- Acted for Clarence Coal Pty Ltd in managing the response to a critical incident in the underground coal mine where two workers where contacted by falling coal and rocks whilst undertaking mining operations underground.
- Acted for Springvale Coal Pty Ltd, an underground coal mine in NSW in responding to a critical incident where a multi-skilled mine worker received leg injuries when a towing arrangement failed during maintenance on the underground long wall.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth‘s national WHS practice acts for both private and public sector clients across a wide range of sectors, including the energy and resources, financial services, government and transport industries. The team handles strategic risk management work, crisis and safety incidents, discrimination issues, bullying and harassment in the workplace, criminal prosecutions and investigations. John Tuck leads the team from Melbourne and is skilled in delivering specialist advocacy services in major industrial cases. Special counsel Marie Costa is also a notable team member in Melbourne.
Other key lawyers:
National Australia Bank
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
State of Victoria
Downer EDI/Spotless Group
CIMIC Group including CPB Contractors, UGL
Ferrovial Agroman (Australia) Pty Ltd
John Holland Group
University of Melbourne
Southern Cross University
- Advising the Wesfarmers group, one of Australia’s largest private sector employers, on Covid-19 workforce management issues.
King & Wood Mallesons
The employment and safety team at King & Wood Mallesons is adept at handling incident and risk management and advisory work. In particular, the team is skilled in advising on fatal incidents within the energy and resources arena. Philip Willox heads up the team from Perth and has substantial expertise in handling major incidents. Andrew Gray (Sydney), Jamie Wells (Brisbane) and Murray Kellock (Melbourne) are also notable team members.
‘Availability and willingness to work any timeline required, to a high standard. The ability with a diverse and large network of teams to respond to any issue and deal with any matter.’
Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre Trust
Collgar Wind Farm
Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (NDIS scheme)
The Griffin Coal Company
Tronox Mining Australia Limited
National Australia Bank
The Star Entertainment Group
- Reviewed the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre Trust’s duties under the forthcoming Western Australian WHS Laws in relation to its functions to develop, control and manage a 28-hectare medical centre precinct.
K&L Gates has WHS regulatory, prosecutorial and litigation experience across Australia, as well as expertise in providing incident response advice. The group is active across the public, construction and energy and resources sectors. Rosemary Alito leads the group and Paul Hardman and Jamie Robinson are notable team members based in Brisbane.
Ardent Leisure (Dreamworld Employees)
- Defended one of Queensland’s largest workplace health and safety prosecutions on behalf of a major Queensland Government-Owned Corporation involving catastrophic failure of infrastructure.
- Advising clients on the workplace health and safety, and migration laws applied to the dynamic working conditions enforced by governments and regulators in response to Covid-19.
The Queensland practice at McCullough Robertson has a strong focus on providing WHS advice to state government departments on industrial relation mandates. Supporting overseas clients establishing in Australia is also a particular skill of the team. Scarlet Reid (Sydney) and Cameron Dean (Brisbane) jointly lead the group; Reid has substantial expertise in the public sector, and Dean has experience in incident response matters.
Australian Rail and Track Corporation Limited
ESCO Australia Holdings Pty Ltd
Mills Oakley‘s WHS team is active across the construction, resources, agriculture, waste, transport and infrastructure sectors, and acts for both large international and small privately owned entities. Advisory work, training services, defence litigation and incident response advice comprise the team's offering. Harold Downes (Brisbane), Rachael Sutton (Sydney) and Ross Levin (Melbourne) jointly lead the group, which has expanded recently with the addition of William Ward in early 2021.
Other key lawyers:
Container Exchange (Qld) Limited
Australian Agricultural Company Limited
Incitec Pivot Limited
J. Hutchinson Pty Ltd
The Star Entertainment Group
JBS Australia Pty Limited
Protech Group (Aust) Pty Ltd
Quarry Products Pty Ltd
Lipman Pty Ltd
Tesla Motors Australia Pty Ltd
Maersk Drilling Australia Pty Ltd
Civil Contractors Federation
Fremantle Port Authority
University of Queensland
- Acting on behalf of JBS Australia Pty Limited in relation to an improvement notice issued for alleged contravention of regulation 44(3) of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.
- Acted for Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd and its two directors in relation to the first industrial manslaughter prosecution in Australia being prosecuted under a Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the first category 1 convictions in Queensland.
- Acted for CPB Contractors Pty Ltd in relation to responding to and disputing various improvement and prohibition notices issued on the Cross River Rail Project.