WorkSafe Victoria: Employees, don't neglect OHS!

Employees, don't neglect OHS!
Source: WorkSafe Victoria

This week Steve Darnley of WorkSafe's Construction Unit writes about the health and safety duties that employees have to other people... and the consequences of ignoring these responsibilities.

After a recent prosecution of a mobile plant operator who did not take reasonable care of the health and safety of another person, I feel it's an opportune time to remind employees of their duties under occupational health and safety laws.

Breaches of employee duties are indictable offences that have significant penalties attached, including fines and/or a criminal conviction. Currently, one penalty unit is $144.36. This means that a maximum fine can add up to almost $260,000.

The relevant section of the OHS Act is listed below:

Division 4 - Duties of employees

25. Duties of employees

(1) While at work, an employee must -

(a) take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety; and

(b) take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee's acts or omissions at a workplace; and

(c) co-operate with his or her employer with respect to any action taken by the employer to comply with a requirement imposed by or under this Act or the regulations.

Penalty: 1800 penalty units.

(2) While at work, an employee must not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided at the workplace in the interests of health, safety or welfare.

Penalty: 1800 penalty units.

(3) In determining for the purposes of subsection (1) (a) or (b) whether an employee failed to take reasonable care, regard must be had to what the employee knew about the relevant circumstances.

(4) An offence against subsection (1) or (2) is an indictable offence.

Note - However, the offence may be heard and determined summarily (see section 28 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009).

Remember, consider the impacts of your actions on other people and don't put anyone (including yourself) at risk.

Most of the time when short cuts are taken, the consequences are relatively minor - like being yelled at by the builder or the health and safety bloke. But if a worker or member of the public is hurt or killed as a result of a decision you have made or action you have (or haven't) taken, then the penalties will be stronger than a telling off.

Have a safe fortnight,

Steve Darnley
WorkSafe Construction Unit