New laws under the forthcoming national Work Health and Safety Act will be a wake-up call for employers who believe their occupational health and safety policy will sufficiently cover workplace incidents.
A South Australian case, where a worker turned up drunk but proceeded to participate in a diving activity and blacked out, highlighted the need for employers to enforce the policy they have in place.
According to lawyer Aaron Anderson, who has followed the case, while the employee’s actions and behaviour were contrary to the employer’s policies, the employer acknowledged that there was a failure on its behalf to enforce compliance with those policies.
“It is generally accepted under statutory occupational health and safety laws across Australia that employers and other obligation holders cannot escape liability for failing to put in place a safe system of work even though a worker may have been wilful or neglectful in carrying out their duties,” said Anderson, who is a partner at Norton Rose law firm.
He said the the position will not change as the model OH&S legislation is enacted across Australia over the coming months.
“Although workers will be required to take reasonable care for their own safety and for the safety of others, those obligations are concurrent with the obligations of persons conducting a business … who must also take reasonable, practicable steps to ensure the safety of their workers.”
Anderson will speak on the new responsibilities at the Queensland Safety Show, which runs from June 21–23 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. For more information, visit qldsafetyshow.com.au.