All employers have a broad range of responsibilities towards their employees. The most important ones include ensuring the safety of the workers while at work. It is their job to ensure that workplaces accidents don’t happen by eliminating any such hazards that might result in one.
According to statistics reported by Safe Work Australia, 182 workers lost their lives after being injured at the workplace in 2016. Though the number might not seem much, thousands of reported and sometimes unreported workplace injuries occur every year, leaving both the worker and the employer at loss. Employers have to pay worker compensation whereas the employee or worker suffers in terms of lost time and physical discomfort for several months following the injury.
Are workplace injuries always the employer’s fault?
Workplace accidents happen all the time. As long s the injury happens in the course of an employee conducting their normal and expected work activities, the employer is likely to be held responsible. Sometimes accidents occur due to worker’s negligence despite being warned or informed about the nature of the work. In some cases it may not be 100% clear whether the injury caused is 100% the fault of the employer. In NSW, where there is an air of uncertainty as to who is 100% responsible, it is worth consulting with worker compensation lawyers in NSW.
Regardless an employee can always put forward a claim for approval, and if an employer fails to follow through and process the claim in a timely manner, they can face legal liabilities and pay fines. Even if the accident occurred because of the worker’s fault, the employer will still have to pay the medical bills since they occurred on the working premise during working hours.
Workplace Injury Hazards
Talking of hazards, it is pivotal that we take note of the most common workplace hazards that result in an injury or illness. This will help us understand the risks involved and how these can be prevented in the next section of this article.
- Infectious diseases and biological hazards: This category involves virus like the Hendra virus and conditions like legionella.
- Exposure to harmful chemical substances: This includes coming in contact with hazardous chemicals, asbestos and dangerous goods etc.
- Manual task hazards: Manual task hazards includes injuries due to manual labour that exceeds beyond one’s ability to carry
- Physical hazards: This can include injuries caused due to confined spaces, equipment failure, electrical faults etc.
- Environmental hazards: This involves injuries caused by excessive noise, poor lighting, uneven flooring, extreme cold or heat, poor air quality etc.
How to Mitigate the Risks?
Most of the injuries aforementioned can be prevented if the employers take the following risks and ensure that all the rules and regulations regarding safety at work are followed by all workers. Risks can be managed easily if:
- The hazards are identified immediately and reported. For instance, if a worker notices any electrical hazards, they should immediately inform the management and have electrical cable floor covers placed for safety. Thus, the chances of electrocutions and power outage can be minimized.
- Control measures are introduced. Control measures include the introduction of meaningful safety gears and information related to injury prevention. Such controls can be initiated during seminars and training sessions where workers are advice on how to use technology to its best use without injuring themselves, how they should always put on their safety gear first when working in risky environments and how they should immediately report any discrepancies without delay etc.
- Controls are reviewed. The only way one can evaluate the effect of the controls put into practice is by reviewing the change it brings. Have the new controls resulted in fewer injuries at work? Has it made the worker more productive etc?
A more detailed elaboration of the liabilities an employer can face due to workplace accidents is available in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. What responsibilities lie on the employers concerning the provisions of safe and fair working conditions is available in a documented form in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.