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Workplace Health and SafetySeptember 25, 2015
Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes happen. But when these mistakes lead to a death caused by a health and safety flaw where does the onus of blame lay? This question was answered in a recent case between Kenoss Contractors and their project manager, Munir Al-Hasani.
Kenoss had been contracted by the ACT Government for road resurfacing works. Kenoss had two sites; a site office and another where materials were stored.
On 23 March 2012, Kenoss contacted subcontractors O’Meley Truck Hire to make a number of deliveries. Michael Booth was the driver, he was alone on the site, but had already been there several times that day. On this occasion, Mr Booth entered the site and tipped his truck to unload the delivery. Sadly his bucket either touched low lying power lines or came very close and caused an electrical arc to form. Burn marks damaged partially deflated tyres and Mr Booth was found lifeless on the ground outside his truck. First aid was performed but they were unable to resuscitate him and he died as a result from electrocution.
O’Meley told the courts that he had “never had a site induction or attended a safety talk prior to attending the site”. When Mr. Booth died, the site was closed and had a sign on the gate saying “Construction Site, Keep out”. However the gates were not locked.
The court heard the facts and found that there had been a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) (The Act) which exposed an individual to risk of death or serious injury/illness.
Who was to blame? The company who hired the sub-contractor Kenoss, or the project manager at the site Al-Hasani?
All employers have a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for all employees, including contractors, and to ensure that a (WHS) officer is appointed. This officer an authoritative figure within the company who has the ability to make decisions, exercise control and authorise the substantial use of capital expenditure.
In the case between Kenoss and Al-Hasani, Kenoss was found to have breached The Act because Al-Hasani did not have the authority to conduct the duties of an officer.
The ACT Industrial Magistrates Court outlined the obligations of an “officer” under the harmonised work health and safety laws, identifying a key change whereby each workplace must appoint an officer to be responsible for keeping it safe. Workplaces as a result are assumed to be more controlled and comply with safety regulations. If Al-Hasani had been appointed officer perhaps the safety of the sites would have been heightened and the death would not have occurred.
Employsure’s response to this case
In response to this case, Employsure reminds all business owners and employers that it is imperative that you appoint an officer. Employers need to conscientiously do everything possible to avoid injuries, illness or fatality. The best way to achieve this is to conduct a complete workplace audit, identifying any hazards and risks, and rectifying them as best as possible. The implementation of work health and safety policies and procedures also ensures all employees are aware of the potential risk and actions to take in the case of an incident.
We make it our mantra to ensure that all of our clients are providing a safe and regulated workplace for all of their employees.
We believe that every workplace can learn from this tragedy, and to ensure that a serious breach in work health and safety does not happen in your workplace call us today on 1300 651 415.