WH&S Dealing with a Fatality – What Employers Need to Know

Article by Brian Simpson, INCA Business Services (MPAQ Corporate Benefit Provider)

Last month in Cairns, while working on air-conditioning equipment in an elevated environment (like many plumbers who work on roofs and in roof cavities), an employee fell to his death at James Cook University (JCU).

After incidents such as this, what follows next for the employers?

While dealing with the grief associated with losing an employee on the job site, employers will be subjected to an ugly, thorough and incredibly intense investigation.

Workplace Health and Safety (WH&S) investigators will be asking the following questions and requesting evidence is provided to verify responses:

  • Can you provide us with copies of the inductions the deceased worker has undertaken?
  • Can you provide us with copies of training the deceased worker completed whilst working?
  • Can you provide us with copies of when your workers and the deceased employee were audited?
  • As an employer, you would be aware of the risks associated with working elevated in environments that are harsh and deteriorate building materials. What training have you provided to make your employees aware of these dangers?
  • The work was undertaken at heights, did you provide working at heights training?
  • Can you provide us with evidence that you implement safe systems of work?
  • What training have you provided to employees on assessing risks when working at heights?

It won’t be just one interview. This will be a long process that will last 12 months or more, including several interviews, and throughout all of this, you still have to run a business and, for most, a home life balance with families.

Hopefully, you and your business will never find yourself in this situation, but are you prepared for if you do? Ask yourself the questions above, and answer them honestly.

It is very possible that the employer of the worker who fell to his death will be charged with manslaughter, which is not a pleasant thought.

There is the possibility that JCU could also faces charges owing to the Duty of Care, chapter 12.2 Primary Duty 703 in the WH&S Regulations.

For more information on making your workplace health and safety compliant please contact the MPAQ Workplace Relations team on (07) 3273 0800.

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