Many managers still perceive labour-hire workers as a cheap, disposable labour force. In some cases this approach has contributed to poor safety attitudes, and serious injuries and even death.
The national harmonised legislation, which has been enacted in all states and territories within Australia, except for Victoria and Western Australia, now places a greater onus of shared responsibility upon both “host employers” and labour-hire agents, e.g. Secs. 19 and 16 of the WHS Act, and the OHS Act 2004 (Vic) Secs. 21 (1), (2) & (3), and OSH Act (WA) Secs. 19, 23D & 23F.
Safety Action has recently undertaken a number of projects in this sector, to help provide compliant, best practice processes and systems, to guide personnel dealing in the areas of labour-hire and apprentice placement.
For both host employers and labour-hire agents, the inspectors were to look for the following:
- information, instruction, training and supervision of labour-hire workers;
- hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control process;
- reporting of injuries and investigation of injuries and reported hazards;
- consultation with labour-hire workers and with the labour-hire agent;
- the provision of personal protective clothing and equipment; and
- provision of a safe working environment for labour-hire workers.
The items as listed above are the minimum safety essentials that all labour-hire agents and host employers need to have established to be compliant with the legislation governing the provision of a safe workplace and safe systems of work, regardless of which jurisdiction one operates in.
The key responsibilities relating to the control and day to day management of the workplace, supervision, systems of work, plant and equipment, etc. into which the labourhire worker has been placed into falls directly to the host employer. The need for the worker to have the necessary qualifications, skills, training, licencing, etc. is the responsibility of the labour-hire agent.
Interestingly, it is the responsibility of both, to ensure that the worker is inducted to both organisations, that they are working for as a direct employee (labour-hire agent), and as a workplace labour resource (host employer).
A couple of Australian workplace regulators have also indicated that labour-hire agents must not only ensure safe workplaces for their workers, but must also “influence” host employers to provide a safe work environment for labour-hire staff, or withdraw them.
Therefore the need to assess (or have the host employer confirm) a host employer’s location or premises, including their systems of work, supervisory structure and general workplace safety compliance is of key importance, given that the day to day operations are controlled by the host employer and not the labour-hire agent.
The greater the amount of relevant documented information that can be acquired and reviewed e.g. policies, procedures, safe operating procedures, risk assessments, etc., from the host employer by the labourhire agent prior to placing the labour into the workplace, the greater the chances are of successfully defending one-self, if an incident occurs and harm or damage is sustained by the labour-hire worker.
This process of fulfilling the due diligence obligations on the part of the labour-hire organisation, is paramount to demonstrating good risk management practice and minimising the potentiality for prosecution or litigation to occur if an incident occurs at the host employer’s workplace.
Labour-hire agents should have a strong, robust and compliant safety management system that they can use to compare to when evaluating a potential host employer’s safety system and processes. If not, then potentially they may be in breach of their duty of care pertaining to the safe placement of a labour-hire worker with a host employer.
For further details or information about any aspects of the preceding article please call Phillip Kamay at Safety Action - (03) 9690 6311.