Victorian junkyard owner sentenced to jail over employee's death

Wednesday 30 January, 2019 | By: ABC Gippsland

A South Gippsland woman has become the first person in Victoria to be sentenced to jail under Worksafe Victoria duty laws for recklessly endangering a worker.

Maria Carla Jackson, 72, was convicted and sentenced to six months' jail in December last year after the death of a man at her scrap metal yard in Foster, 174 kilometres south-east of Melbourne.

Foster man Robbie Blake was killed when he fell three metres from a raised forklift and was hit by a falling bin in February 2017.

Ms Jackson was driving the forklift at the time.

She pleaded guilty to breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act by failing to comply with her duty as a self-employed person not to expose other people to risk.

Ms Jackson also pleaded guilty to the more serious offence of recklessly engaging in conduct that placed others in danger of serious injury.

She appealed against the sentence and was granted bail but withdrew her appeal on January 21, 2019.

She was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $7,336 in court costs.

It is understood she was placed in custody this week.

"The worker, who was in his 50s, was inside the bin removing scrap steel when Ms Jackson lifted it with a forklift," Worksafe health and safety executive director Julie Nielson said.

"The bottom of the bin gave way, causing the worker to fall through and the bin and steel then fell on him."

Ms Jackson did not hold a forklift licence and was recovering from a stroke when she was driving the forklift.

"Ms Jackson showed an abhorrent disregard for the health and safety of people in her workplace," Ms Nielson said.

She had run the Recycling Emporium independently for more than 40 years.

Her brash manner and unique career choice made her notorious in the local community.

Jail sentence divides local town
Foster butcher, John Davies, said Ms Jackson's children worked for him in his shop.

"Maria was a larger-than-life person in our community. Everyone knew her [and] everyone here will have their own Maria story," Mr Davies said.

"She sold toasters to trucks. You could find anything at her junk yard."

The six-month prison sentence and $10,000 fine has divided the local community.

"Is it going to change anything to put a 72-year-old woman in jail?" local gallery owner Anne Roussac-Hoyne said.

"Probably not, but Maria had her own often colourful and harsh way of doing things and Robbie Blake has died needlessly."

It is the first time in Victoria that someone has been sentenced to jail for a breach of a workplace health and safety duty provision.

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This article was originally published on the ABC website.

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