Ensuring a Safe Place of Work: Labour hire companies not exempted

24 March 2017

In a recent decision at the Perth Magistrates Court, a Perth labour hire company has been fined $20,000 for failing to ensure the safety of their workers. The labour hire company in question, Eastlink, hired out their workers to a Bayswater waste recycling plant. Although no incident or injury had taken place, the Court held that Eastlink had failed to take reasonable steps towards ensuring that the recycling plant was a safe place to work.

Although Eastlink had sent a recruitment consultant to the Bayswater plant to review the suitability of the workplace, his lack of hazard identification training ultimately meant that Eastlink’s ‘reasonable steps’ fell short of Western Australia’s OH&S requirements.

WorkSafe WA highlights labour-hire obligations

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch used this case as a reminder to labour hire companies that they are still responsible for the safety of workers that they hire out:

“Keeping work placements safe should include providing a suitable induction specific to the workplace, and carefully assessing the workplace for any potential hazards before workers are sent there.”

McCulloch also pointed out that Eastlink not only failed to identify potential hazards, but that the company failed to even identify all the tasks that their employees would be carrying out.

What should labour-hire companies take away from this?

While OH&S legislation across the country can’t exactly be complimented on it’s clarity, its underlying purpose provides ample guidance for employers – the safety of workers are paramount, and employers should take reasonable steps to ensure that this is upheld.

While the employer-employee relationship is somewhat blurred with the arrangements within labour hire companies, there is uniform agreement in Courts across Australia that however tenuous the relationship may be, a labour hire company does owe a duty to ensure that their workers are placed in a safe working environment.

Timothy Ashton of Hentys Lawyers has over 25 years of experience in workers compensation and industrial relations, and has worked with a number of multi-national companies and household names. Please contact Timothy for advice by sending an email to hjk@hentys.com.au.