heard a lady on a radio talk back segment recently who asked the guest lawyer who was going to pay for her loss (as described). The lawyer answered – “maybe no one”. This made the lady angry as she asserted she had experienced a genuine loss. The lawyer explained that just because someone sustains a loss does not necessarily mean someone else is responsible.
For example, some medical operations result in complications even when there is no negligence involved. Similarly, naturally occurring bush fires can and do cause wide spread devastation and if we have no insurance we may not receive any financial relief.
The trend in the community appears to be “blame someone else” when anything happens, and this made me think about similar trends in workplace safety.
At the risk of over-simplifying potentially complex issues associated with workplace safety, I will attempt to summarise the essence of liability *.
First, you must have a duty of care for the person who has experienced some loss (injury or damage). For example, we know it is unsafe and a breach of workplace safety regulations to allow a worker to be exposed to a fall (Vic & WA of 2 metres or more), but if you see someone exposed to a fall risk on the way home today do you have a duty to intervene? Answer – No, other than a moral obligation.
The second component of personal liability is failing to exercise adequate care for a person you have a duty to protect. For example, failing to train workers in the risks involved in the job and the necessary precautions, or allowing unsafe equipment to be used, or failing to provide personal protective equipment.
Whilst all managers and supervisors must understand and satisfy their personal obligations for workplace safety we, as a community, must encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for their actions (or inaction) and the consequences. This applies to family, neighbours and co-workers.
Gary Rowe, CEO Safety Action
If you want to learn more about how to build a healthy culture in your workplace which combines the legal obligations with community standards, in sympathy with personal / moral obligations then call us T:03 9690 6311.
* If you have a legal issue speak to a professional lawyer.