Do You Have Health and Safety Systems In Place?
It doesn’t matter if you were trying to get health and safety systems in place.
Neither does it matter if you started to get them in place.
Look, it doesn’t even matter if you DO have a health and safety system.
The only thing that’ll stop you paying big time in court costs, fines, legal fees and increased premiums is if you can PROVE you have a health and safety system in place.
Remember, every day you send workers out to perform a job there’s a new opportunity for an incident. An incident that could plunge you into a world of hurt if you haven’t done what the law requires.
It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the laws. If you think they’re too hard or believe they’re restricting business or just plain unfair, it doesn’t matter. The consequences are unstoppable.
You’re going to need to present proof
If an incident or accident or accident happens here’s what you’re going to need to prove your health and safety system manages and that each section is up to date and relevant;
- Risk assessments
- Hazard management
- Incident management
- A method of managing consultation and meetings with workers
- Registers for Workers, Assets, Chemicals, Locations and Jobs where all health and safety issues are linked and synchronised
- Document management registers for Workers, Assets, Chemicals, Locations and Jobs
This Business Ended Up Paying
This business could not back up what they said they did with PROOF, so they ended up paying. Here’s the story.
As a result of a back injury while stacking tyres a worker was awarded over $268,000 in damage.
The company, a local tyre business, failed to provide adequate training and supervision. Consequently, the man stacked the tyres in an unsafe manner.
The worker was stacking tyres, weighing between 39 and 54 kg, into piles three or four high.. As per instructions, he was using a ‘barrel stacking’ method to reduce the weight he needed to lift.
After reporting a back injury as a result of the tyre stacking a subsequent investigation was undertaken. The investigation revealed the worker had pulled one tyre up on top of another without using the barrel stacking method.
He sought damages from the tyre company. Specifically, he alleged his injuries had arisen from the company’s negligence and breach of the duty of care.
He alleged that the tyre company had failed to:
- identify and assess the risks associated with the stacking of large tyres
- instruct him in the safe manual handling of the tyres
- provide supervision while performing the tyre stacking task
- supply a forklift or other mechanical lifting device and instruct him in their use.
The company denied liability for the injury
The company disputed the allegation, claiming it had exercised reasonable care and complied with its statutory safety duties and that:
- the barrel stacking method had been safe and reasonable
- the worker had the assistance of a co-worker
- failing to use a safe lifting technique to lift the tyres according to his manual handling training and the instructions given to him caused the injury.
The company effectively argued that it had health and safety systems in place.
The evidence showed this was not the case. The tyre company claimed that its induction of new workers included instruction in the stacking of tyres. However, the worker did not receive such training.
If he had a demonstration of the barrel stacking method as alleged, the trainer was no longer present to correct him when he deviated from it.
The worker also denied that he had been working with a buddy.
Judge accepts worker’s account
The Judge accepted that the worker had given an honest account of his work. It was found, that he probably had not received adequate training in the barrel stacking method. Furthermore, he had not been supervised by a buddy or anyone else while carrying out the task.
The evidence by other employees, on the other hand, had contained some inconsistencies. It was based on what should have happened rather than from a distinct memory of the events of that day.
The worker’s physical injury was thought to have resolved within 6-8 weeks. However, later on, he reported depression, not sleeping well, having a poor memory, difficulty concentrating and occasional back pain.
The judge accepted that the worker suffered from depression and that the accident had materially contributed to it. As a result, the Judge concluded that the tyre company did not discharge its duty of care. It failed to ensure the worker was adequately trained and supervised which caused his injuries.
The judge, on assessing damages, awarded the worker $268,405.20, which including $122,996 for loss of earnings. Here is the judgement: Sulub v Tyres4U Pty Limited  WADC 139 (28 November 2018)
What we can learn from this
The takeaway from this is that documented proof of health and safety systems you initiate should be available.
Of course, the complexity of the laws makes this very difficult unless you have a health and safety management system. You need a system that links and synchronises every part, providing solid proof that you complied with the law’s requirements.