Boral Sentences for Failing to Protect Workers

Building materials company Boral has been fined $180,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today for failing to enforce the correct use of respiratory masks for workers.

The sentencing follows an earlier guilty plea from Boral to the offences.

WorkSafe found that on October 4, 2018, and October 1 and October 10, 2019, workers were exposed to deadly silica dust that was generated from processing the quarry rock.

Joanna McNeill aged 37, is a former Boral employee and mother-of-two who was diagnosed with silicosis In 2019.

McNeill was exposed to dust containing silica while working at Boral’s Montrose quarry from 2013, despite working an indoor administration office job.

Silicosis is caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, which scar the lungs, making it increasingly difficult to breathe.

The dust can be generated in workplace mechanical processes such as crushing, cutting, drilling, grinding, sawing or polishing natural stone or man-made products that contain silica.

Each year around 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica (silica) dust at work often because of workplaces failing to ensure workers have adequate protection.

Joanna with the AWU Victorian Branch

Joanna McNeill welcomed the court’s verdict.

“It’s crucial that we raise awareness about the severity of silica dust exposure and the simple preventative measures that can be put in place to protect workers.”

“Boral’s knowledge of my condition for four years and their recent concession of the risk to my health only through a worksafe investigation at the Montrose Quarry highlights the urgent need for companies to prioritise their workers’ health and safety” McNeill said.

“Let’s hold companies accountable and work together to ensure that no worker has to suffer from preventable workplace illnesses.”

Australian Workers’ Union national secretary, Dan Walton, welcomed the sentence but says current workplace laws must be strengthened.

“Jo had the right to a safe work environment, and Boral failed in their most basic duty of care. Her and her daughters will bear the cost of this forever,” Mr Walton said.

“Ever since her silicosis diagnosis, Jo has worked tirelessly to warn others about the dangers of deadly silica dust. I applaud her bravery in coming forward, but she never should have been put in this position.

“State and Federal Governments need to urgently act to put protections in place and ensure no worker has to deal with a death sentence as a result of doing their job.”

Ronnie Hayden, Acting Branch Secretary of AWU Victoria, said it was time for companies to be held accountable for their failure to protect workers.

“It’s high time companies like Boral take responsibility for their workers’ safety and prioritise the implementation of measures to protect their employees from deadly silica dust exposure.”

“Boral may have pleaded guilty in this case, but saying sorry and handing over your loose pocket change is not enough of a deterrent. Boral has an obligation and a duty of care to all employees and surrounding residents of their facilities. These companies must be held accountable and actively work towards ensuring their workers’ safety in the future. Patching the problem with a fine is not the final word.”

Percy Pillai, OHS Director for the AWU Victorian Branch ,was in court today to see justice delivered for Joanna and other victims. Pillai says the AWU will continue to campaign for justice for silicas patients.

“Companies that flout workplace safety laws should know that the AWU will continue to stay vigilant and ensure that there is accountability. Nobody will get away with putting workers safety at risk.”

/Public Release. View in full here.