Employer responsibility to ensure training is relevant and ensures worker safety

Posted by Andrew McGiffert |26 Apr 13 | 0 comments

A recent case before the Queensland Supreme Court took my interest from a training and liability perspective. While the training and industry is different thoughts of manual handling training in the retail industry and the liability involved came to mind.

The Endeavour Foundation provides services for people with intellectual disabilities, and trains its workers to respond to clients who can sometimes become agitated or violent. A worker who was demonstrating a professional assault response training (PART) technique for dealing with an aggressive person fell over and injured her back and buttocks. The worker sued for damages, arguing the risk of injury lay in the speed at which she was performing the maneouvre,  claiming she had been wrongly instructed by two PART trainers engaged by the workplace to walk backwards quickly in the technique rather than at a slow or moderate pace.

The employer argued the workers injuries were “of no great consequence”, and that “the risk of injury in the manner alleged was not reasonably foreseeable”. Interestingly following the incident the two trainers were replaced by another, who emphasised the importance of performing the “back steps” manoeuvre “slowly and carefully”. At the time the worker didn’t have the benefit of that instruction.

If she had been instructed to walk backward slowly and carefully the risk would have been substantially reduced, Justice McMeeking found during the proceeding.

“An employer is not simply under a duty to exercise reasonable care towards its employees but is under a higher duty – a duty to ensure that reasonable care is taken,” he said. 

“That duty ‘is said to be non-delegable because a principal who engages another to perform work will be liable for the negligence of the person so engaged, notwithstanding that he exercised reasonable care in the selection of the contractor’.” 

Justice McMeekin awarded the worker $369,000 in past and future economic loss and other damages. 

A full transcript can be downloaded by clicking here

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