Confusion over labour hire prosecutions

Thursday, 10 August, 2006

A spate of prosecutions has seen labour hire companies held accountable for the safety of employees they "on-hire' to other employers.

Integrated Group Limited was fined $7500 for failing to ensure a workplace was safe after a worker it supplied to Western Salt Refinery had the tips of two fingers amputated between the pulley and v-belt of a waste auger.

Commissioner at WorkSafe WA, Nina Lyhne said the court case is a good illustration of the responsibilities labour hire companies have to the health and safety of their employees.

"The injured man was an employee for the labour hire company, which was hence responsible for ensuring it was sending him to a safe workplace," Lyhne said.

"The man was given a general induction when he started at the workplace, but was not given any site-specific induction or training in relation to the safe operation of any of the machinery at the salt refinery."

A representative of Integrated Group did attend the refinery to conduct an inspection and job compatability assessment, but operation of the waste auger was not identified as a task to be performed, so the labour hire company did not instruct Western Salt to train the worker in its operation.

Michael Birt from WorkSafe Victoria told Safety Solutions that in such cases, both the agency and host have a duty of care. "The agency has to monitor the workers to ensure there is appropriate consultation between workers and their client " the host," he said.

"The host is required to notify the agency on a change of task to allow the agency to ensure appropriate training and induction and to determine whether the worker is suitable and trained for the task."

Another recent prosecution in NSW made it clear that both the labour hire company and the host employer were responsible when a worker placed in temporary employment had his arm crushed.

In this instance, the judge ruled that the labour hire company was responsible for 40% of the worker's damages, with the host employer making up the remaining 60%.

WorkSafe Victoria has released two guidance publications " Labour Hire Agencies: managing the safety of on-hired workers and Host employers: managing the safety of labour hire workers.

WorkSafe executive director, John Merritt said this series of industry-specific case studies should clarify the understanding of the health and safety duties faced by labour hire companies, group training companies and host employers.

To view a copy of the new Victorian guidelines, visit www.workcover.vic.gov.au. WorkSafe WA released its own guideline to labour hire late in 2005. This can be found at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Wendy Cramer, Editor

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