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Perspective

Ignorance not an excuse for safety breaches

Nina Hoang
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Once again the Courts and Tribunals have re-emphasized the importance of reasonable practicability. Employers must do everything they reasonably can to mitigate or avert a potential risk to their employees.

Remember the test for ‘reasonable practicability’ requires employers to consider the following:

  • the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring
  • the degree of harm from the hazard or risk
  • knowledge about ways of eliminating or minimising the hazard or risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
  • cost.

This recent case involving H&T Cook Enterprises Pty Ltd demonstrates that businesses both large and small must do all that they reasonably can to protect their employees from risks otherwise they must face the consequences. This case also highlights that Directors will be held personally liable for their inaction.

This South Australian case involved H&T Cook Enterprises Pty Ltd’s Brighton café. A young worker had been refilling an ethanol burner by pouring methylated spirits. A flashback flame ignited the worker’s face and hair causing serious injuries to their face, neck and hands resulting in them being hospitalised.

The company and its Director have plead guilty for failing to provide proper refuelling instructions and training and supervision of workers so that refuelling was completed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The Director was personally held responsible for their lack of due diligence over safety processes. They have yet to be sentenced.

Key Lessons

  • For every risk you must undertake a risk assessment to determine what is the most appropriate control
  • The greater the risk to employees, the more your liability increases!
  • Reasonable practicability requires businesses to do everything reasonable they can to mitigate any risks
  • Directors are directly responsible for ensuring that safety processes are in place and they are complied with
  • Consider engaging a OHS consultant to complete a safety audit if you are unsure how to reduce your safety risks

See SafeWork SA Media release

Nina Hoang
Published:

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