Employees, Contractors and Workplace Accidents

While some of us may be aware that our employer has a duty to keep us safe at our place of work, many may not know that our employer can still be held liable for an injury sustained while working at premises under the control of another party. What does that mean? Basically, if you suffer an injury, at a location you were at for work purposes, you may be able to claim for any workplace accidents that occur. This is an important distinction and one that some injured workers are unaware of – impacting their claim options.

If a worker is injured due to the negligence of this other party the employer will still generally be held partially responsible. This is because the duty owed by the employer to their employee extends to ensuring their worker is sent to a safe environment to carry out their duties. However the law recognises that as the employer was not ultimately in control of that workplace/premises they cannot be held wholly responsible and the Court will apportion liable accordingly. The remaining percentage of liability for the accident will fall on the third party (generally this is the larger portion of liability).

Recently a Victorian wool company was convicted of breaching workplace health and safety laws for failing to provide a safe working environment to people other than employees, when a truck driver (who was not an employee) was injured while delivering wool bales to the company. The wool processor was fined $75,000 and was also ordered to pay court costs of $17,000.

The case of the injured truck driver as mentioned above is particularly relevant for those businesses that have people, other than their own employees, entering their premises to carry out work. Businesses have a responsibility to not only ensure the safety of their own employees but also to ensure the safety of those non-employees who enter their premises to carry out their work. A business may be liable for non-employee’s workplace accidents and subsequent injuries if:

  • They do not have procedures in place for carrying out certain tasks and a non-employee is injured as a result;
  • They do not ensure that these procedures are followed and a non-employee is injured as a result;
  • They do not provide a safe place for non-employee’s to carry out their work.
  • They do not ensure an appropriate risk assessment is carried out and that all workers who come into contact with their operations are appropriately inducted and trained.

A non-employee may also bring a claim for negligence against their own employer for:

  • Failing to ensure the business they sent them to was safe to carry out their duties;
  • Failing to ensure the business they sent them to adopted and implemented safe working principles.
So, if you have been injured while working at a premises/job site not owned or operated by your employer then, providing your injury was a result of negligence, you could bring a claim against the business operating the site. A claim would also be brought against your employer.

This type of claim is most common when a labour hire employee becomes injured. The claim against the business would be brought under the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 and the claim against your employer would be brought under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. As two different pieces of legislation are involved it can sometimes become a little tricky so we can assist you with making sure both sets of legislation are followed and damages are calculated correctly to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

Regardless of whether businesses only allow employees on their site or provide for non-employees to carry out work, workplace health and safety is extremely important for everyone to follow. If those practices are not followed businesses may be subject to claims from not only their own employees but also non-employees who are working on their premises.

Businesses must understand and control the risks inherent with their operations to ensure the safety of everyone who enters their premises. If they fail to do so they may not only become liable in negligence but also face serious penalties or prosecution.

For more information on workers’ compensation claims, Gouldson Legal have the experience and history of successful cases to help answer your questions.

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