As the country moves closer to harmonisation organisations must ensure they fully understand the responsibilities of the PCBU (person who conducts business or undertaking). The definitions of ‘workers’ and ‘workplace’ in the new act are broad and will include more transparent responsibilities for contractors, labour hire personnel and work experience.
Labour hire company Skilled was recently fined for assigning a worker to an unsafe factory. In September 2009 the worker was cleaning a poorly-guarded dough extruder, at a factory in Victoria, when it suddenly activated and dragged his arm into the rollers.
The Magistrates Court found the worker, who suffered serious injuries, had not been properly trained and had failed to isolate the machine. Skilled pleaded guilty to the charge, the host employer was also charged over the incident and pleaded not guilty, they are due to appear in the magistrates court next year.
This type of incident is not a first for the Skilled group who was found to have failed to ensure that a host employer’s workplace was safe before allowing an on-hire worker to commence employment, following a similar incident in 2008.
Skilled group pleaded guilty in 2008 at the Western Australia Magistrates Court after an on-hired workers fingers were crushed in an unguarded machine at host employer Bestbar Pty Ltd. Skilled group was fined $27,500 for the incident. The host employer Best Bar was also fined $30,000 earlier in the year.
Whilst labour hire is an attractive option for many businesses, who have false perceptions that their responsibility becomes voided by using third party labour hire, the above case examples show that all parties are responsible and the regulators act swiftly to ensure labour hire employees are adequately protected.