Primary duty of care is the requirement of Section 19 of Work health & Safety Act 2011. PCBUs not satisfying their primary duty of care may face heavy penalties and other fines. Given below are number of recent examples of WHS prosecutions that illustrate that point of fines and jail punishments sentence.
- A waste management company was prosecuted and fined $650,000 because one of its employee was knocked to the ground and suffered minor injuries when a production trial of a new solvent created a fiery explosion. The accusation on PCBU was that it failed to provide sufficient information and supervision about the new solvent to their workers that caused this incident.
- A fast food chain was prosecuted and fined $105,000 when a worker fell into a tank of oil that had been placed on the floor behind him. The PCBU failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work and failed to provide adequate information training and supervision.
- A worker making coffee in a hospital kiosk suffered an arm injury at work and eventually sued her employer for damages. She was awarded $590,000. The Court of Appeal court ruled that the employer failed to provide a safe system of work and that had been a major cause of her injury.
- The owner of a trucking business knew that a truck had faulty brakes but sent a worker off to deliver a load in that truck. The worker was killed in a traffic accident. Although the owner was not prosecuted under WHS law but was charged with endangering life and manslaughter under the criminal law and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
All the above stated examples from Court decisions in 2016/17 involved WHS requirements listed in section 19(3) of the WHS Act.
Section 19 of the WHS Act is the PCBUs Primary Duty of Care. Section 19 (3) says that a PCBU must ensure so far as reasonably practicable that:
- the work environment is without risks to health and safety
- the plant and structures are safe
- the systems of work are safe
- the use, handling, and storage of plant, structures, and substances are safe
- there are adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers
- information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work is provided
- that the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored for preventing illness or injury of workers
When you get right down to it compliance with Section 19 can be achieved when the PCBU, the PCBU’s Officers, the Workers, and Others take the necessary actions to satisfy their duty of care regarding the matters stated in section 19. Lack of appropriate action by anyone in that chain of WHS duties opens the door to the risk of harm, injury and expense.
Hence it is extremely desirable that all the PCBU’s and other people responsible should become well conversant with the compliance requirements of section 19 of WHS Act in order to avoid any undesired fines and imprisonment. Compliance not saves the cost of fines and reputation of the organisation but also frees the time that is otherwise wasted in the litigation and court proceedings.