common law liability

It is an employers’ duty to protect an employee against foreseeable risk of injury. This can be achieved by providing a safe place of work and safe equipment to use, as well as ensuring there is a sound system that enforces and maintains these safety measures. Initial safety training may not be sufficient, and therefore on-going safety training for the employee may be required.

Employers also have an underlying common law obligation to protect their workers from disease and injury at work. Failure to do so can result in employers being sued for negligence. Employers also have a duty to manage all foreseeable risks of injury at work and to provide:

  • proper training of all workers, including advice, information, education and formal training
  • adequate supervision
  • the identification, assessment, and control (by removal, isolation, substitution or risk reduction) of all potential hazards and risks at the workplace – this includes work processes and work systems, and is referred to as ‘risk management’
  • safe and appropriate work equipment
  • development and issuing of a health and safety at work policy that promotes safe practices generally and encourage a ‘safety culture’ at work
  • regular inspections and audits of the workplace, preferably in consultation with employees.

understanding your obligations

In Australia, there are ten main workers’ compensation regulators that affect businesses and most public sector organisations. Each of the six Australian states and both territories have their own workers’ compensation laws mostly under the WorkCover banner. There’s also a scheme for Australian government employees called Comcare.

To understand more about employers’ obligations or to seek independent legal advice, contact the relevant authority.

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