SA Police fined $390,000 over death of cook Debra Summers in freezer

A $390,000 fine imposed on South Australia Police over the death of a woman working at its Adelaide Hills training centre is among the largest in the state for breaching workplace safety laws.

It was imposed today over the death of 54-year-old Debra Summers, who died from hypothermia after being trapped in a walk-in freezer at the Echunga facility in 2016.

SA Police was spared the full force of the law, with the South Australian Employment Tribunal discounting the fine by 40 per cent for an early guilty plea.

The force faced a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

The force will instead have to pay $390,000 plus costs to cover travel expenses for one of Ms Summers’s daughters.

Tribunal deputy president Judge Brian Gilchrist found police failed to have any policies or procedures in place to deal with the fact at times, she had to work with “extremely dangerous” equipment.

He was left with the impression that “SAPOL is mortified by the death of the deceased”.

“And rightly so,” Judge Gilchrist said His views were echoed by Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams after the fine was imposed.

“SAPOL are clearly mortified at the death of Deb Summers,” she said.

“We’re deeply sorry to the family.

“We understand this whole process would have been terrible for them.”

The judgment noted police had made substantial safety improvements to the Echunga training site and more than doubled its equipment maintenance budget since Ms Summers’ death.

Police have also banned walk-in freezers from any of their sites.

The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI), which is responsible for maintaining State Government sites, was also charged over the tragedy.

But SafeWork SA withdrew the charge, instead accepting an “Enforceable Undertaking,” which obliges DPTI to conduct a review of its facilities and maintenance to ensure they meet safety requirements.

SOURCE:

April 17, 2019

ABC NEWS

Chris McLoughlin

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-16/police-fined-over-death-of-cook-in-freezer/11021166