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Occupational health & safety laws – who is covered?

Richard Faulks

07 Nov 2018

Topics

  • Employment Law
  • Regulatory

When it comes to occupational health & safety laws, it hasn’t always been clear if contractors are covered by the workplace health and safety obligations of the business they are contracted to. This is confusing for both the contractor and the business.

In this article, Richard Faulks, Managing Director with Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, outlines implications from a recent decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria (Muscat v Magistrates Court [2018] VSC 650).

This case confirms that the Court is likely to adopt an expansive interpretation of occupational health and safety laws. In this case, the injured worker wasn’t employed by the company alleged to have been responsible for the work practice. Instead, they were employed by the company contracted to manage the day-to-day running of the resort in question.

The Court had to decide whether the relevant section of the Act required that an employer doesn’t expose non-employees to risks to their health and safety.

Ultimately, the judge in the Supreme Court found that the relevant wording of the section that refers to ‘persons other than employees’ includes employees of independent contractors, such as the worker in question in this case.

This decision is likely to have a broad application across occupational health and safety laws throughout Australia. It demonstrates that if you employ workers carrying out risky tasks, or subcontract that work to other companies, you’ll be responsible if injuries occur as a result of a failure to ensure proper health and safety.

How can Snedden Hall & Gallop assist?

Our Employment Law team will be able to help you if you need advice about an occupational health & safety issue. Please contact us on (02) 6285 8000 or by email.