A Court has urged Employers to take the Work Health and Safety Act “very seriously” as they may well still be held accountable for actions that were not necessarily their own. Landmark Roofing Pty Ltd was found to be liable for the death of a roofing apprentice which resulted from a supervisor failing to follow the safety instructions of the Employer. In the first instance, Landmark was fined $400,000 for not ensuring the health and safety of its employees, as those working on the roof should have been harnessed to a safety static line. It was held that Landmark should have better communicated the grave risk posed by the fragile skylight to the apprentice, which it was aware of. Landmark had instructed the supervisor of the worksite that all staff working on the roof of the shed needed to be secured to the safety line. The supervisor ignored this direction, failing to prevent the accident.

Despite the provision of appropriate safety directions to the supervisor, under 244 of the Act, the breach was found to be “within the actual or apparent scope of his or her employment”, meaning that the supervisor’s noncompliance was conduct authorised by Landmark, but done in an unauthorised manner, and could have been mitigated by Landmark had it foresaw the possibility of this potential misconduct and take further action to bring this risk to the attention of Employees.

This is a harsh decision and highlights the extent that the courts will go to protect young at-risk workers.

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