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WHS Update June 2015

June 01, 2015

Heads Up: Mentally healthy workplaces start with everyone

The National Retail Association is proud in joining ACCI and Beyond Blue to promote mentally healthy workplaces and prevent the risk of harm caused to workers who may be suffering from, or likely to suffer a mental illness. The importance of workplace wellbeing is far greater than what we could ever imagine, with over 6 million working days lost each year to workers with untreated depression, 12 million days of reduced productivity and with 1 in 5 employees likely to be experiencing a mental health condition, the time is now to get serious about mental health at work. Heads Up is an initiative targeted at providing individuals and businesses with free tools and resources to make their workplaces healthier. By clicking on the link below and joining Heads Up, users can develop their own action plans, take care of their own mental health and be equipped with the resources to promote mental health and wellbeing. We urge everyone to get involved, employees, employers, directors and decision makers to play their part and take action. Click here to get started today.  

Safety Alert: Reminder to ensure safe function of winch type signs

A recent incident at a school in Caboolture, Queensland in which a worker was struck on the head by a wince type sign, has served as a reminder of the harm and potential death that these types of signs are likely to cause. Common causes resulting in the risk posed by the signs includes worn or rusted parts, failure of the emergency brake and poor maintenance. Employers are urged to ensure that where they require workers to maintain and use these signs, that they ensure their workers’ safety. For employers who would like more information on the control measures required to ensure that safe operation can access the Workplace Health and Safety QLD Safety Alert here.  

Case Update: Worker’s dangerous driving voids journey claim

In the Queensland matter of Sucrogen Australia Pty Ltd v Simon Blackwood (Workers’ Compensation Regulator) [2015] QIRC 074, employer Sucrogen has successfully appealed against a decision which held that a worker was entitled to payment of workers’ compensation for a journey injury, despite the worker’s dangerous driving. The Employer, Sucrogen Australia, argued that the worker was not entitled to claim workers’ compensation as she had been driving dangerously at the time and that her behaviour amounted to a contravention of the Queensland Criminal Code (the worker was also issued with an infringement notice for following a vehicle too closely). The Employer further argued that at the time the injury occurred the journey was no longer a work related one as there was a substantial interruption as she had been delayed in leaving the workplace when she waited for a colleague. The Commission however rejected this argument. Deputy President Bloomfield held for the employer finding that the breach of the Criminal Code was a major and significant factor that caused her injury. Click here for the complete decision,  

Case Update: Worker awarded $3.8 million in damages for PTSD for attempted murder

New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Campbell has, in the matter of Wright by his Tutor Wright v Optus Administration Pty Ltd [2015] NSWSC 160 awarded agency employee Glen Wright compensation for past and future economic loss and damages totaling $3.8 million dollars. During the course of his employment with Optus, Wright suffered serious post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of another agency worker (Nathaniel George) attempting to murder him by throwing him over a building. Justice Campbell determined that although both George and Wright were agency employees, Optus owed them both a duty of care and that it breached this duty of care when it failed to protect Wright against a reasonably foreseeable risk that resulted in personal injury and mental harm being caused to him by George. In coming to his decision, Justice Campbell held that Optus had a duty to take reasonable care in establishing, maintaining and enforcing a safe system of work and safeguarding him (Wright) from unreasonable risks. At the time the incident occurred, Optus was aware that George had been acting erratically; the erratic behaviour started when George left his training session on the day of the incident and failed to return. Concerned about the length of time that he had been absent, the head trainer went looking for him, she eventually found him on the roof where he was behaving in an aberrant manner, pacing and acting, in lay terms, as though he was psychotic or on drugs. Two fellow head trainers eventually came to the aid of the trainer and the incident then worsened when one of the three trainers directed Wright to come to the roof as George had been asking for him. Uncomfortable with the direction and uncertain as to why George would ask for him, Wright reluctantly went to the roof where George proceeded to assault him by punching him repeatedly in the head and attempted to lift him and throw him off the building. In the police report provided, the evidence stated that George was a person who had formed a desire to kill someone. He had fixed this desire on another person the previous day, who was leaning against the railing of the roof but then walked away. George’s desire to kill someone then turned to Wright. Wright successfully argued that although an agency employee, Optus owed him a duty of care, which it breached when he was directed to go to the roof and speak with George. Wright suffered significant injuries caused by the blows to his head and subsequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder due to the attempt on his life. His Honor acknowledged that Wrights’ current incapacity, poly drug abuse and dependence have all been directly caused by the incident that took place on the day and awarded him compensation and damages in the sum of $3.8 million dollars. Optus was also ordered to indemnify IPA Personnel (Wright’s agency) for workers’ compensation payments totaling $679,952 it paid to the worker. The decision is an important reminder that employers owe a non-delegable duty to all workers under their control and who perform work in accordance with the directions given to them by the employer. For the complete decision click here

Victorian Employers: Guide to work-related violence available

Information for Victorian employers on preventing workplace violence can now be accessed through Worksafe Victoria. The Employer Guide on Preventing and Responding to Work-Related Violence, is a comprehensive document outlining the rights and responsibilities of persons who are responsible for preventing workplace violence. The guide also provides practical solutions for duty holders including how to respond to workplace violence, undertaking investigations and carrying out risk assessments. A copy of the guide can be found here.  

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