The founder of a tree care business ordered to pay $108,500 by WorkSafe says the company value is less than the fine and it will put him out of business.
James Isaacs, who founded StumpMaster Limited in 2008, was ordered to pay a $90,000 fine as well as $18,500 in reparations after a palm tree being removed by an employee fell on a woman, resulting in her being hospitalised for six days.
An investigation by WorkSafe found there was no exclusion area around the tree to ensure public safety, and no signage.
Isaacs said the company had contacted WorkSafe in May 2016 to let them know about the job, and had provided the employee with all the correct safety gear to do the job.
He said it was "devastating' that a mistake by one employee was going to put the company under.
"This business was my life. When I started it in my early 20s I had saved up a deposit for a house on the Shore but instead put that money into my business in order to grow it.
"I thought I was doing the right thing by creating something productive rather than just buying and selling property like everyone else," he said.
"The business provided jobs for at least 20-30 people over its 10-year operation but it's starting to look like this was all for nothing and I will now lose everything."
Isaacs said the company had proposed a fine of $20,000 or 20 per cent of the company's total equity, which would still have a significant impact, however the judge settled on the $90,000 plus reparations instead.
The $90,000 was almost equal to the total equity of the company, Isaacs said.
"Fines under the new Health and Safety Act have increased six-fold and are now so large that they effectively have the power to destroy almost any business," he said.
"This is a one-man operation. I am not a giant, faceless corporation. This fine is likely to put me out of business."
The company had made a mistake he said, however the punishment went far above what had happened.
"Safety was always very important to me given our dangerous industry. I spent thousands on the company's health and safety manual and even had our systems externally audited once a year," he said.
"We even gained a Primary award from the ACC Workplace Safety Management Practices system, but in the end none of this seems to have counted for anything."
Isaacs would be trying to appeal the decision.