In April, Prestige Truck Bodies was fined $225,000 for creating unsafe working conditions after a worker was crushed to death. The workers were lifting heavy materials which slipped and crushed the floor manager.

In this case the employer should have trained the employees to recognise that a container was unsafely packed and refuse to unload it. They should also have been trained how to lift heavy materials safely.

Doctors at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital say many tradespeople in their twenties and thirties are injured due to flying nails, concrete, wire and power tool parts. Most of these injuries could be prevented if the tradespeople wore the appropriate protective gear, which the employers should provide.

Work and health safety laws

All employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers while they work in the business. They must also ensure the health and safety of those who may be affected by the work done.

These duties include:

  • Providing a safe work environment
  • Providing and maintaining safe machinery and structures
  • Providing safe ways of working
  • Ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of machinery, structures and substances
  • Providing and maintaining adequate facilities
  • Providing information, training, instruction or supervision if needed
  • Monitoring the health of workers and conditions at the workplace

In Victoria, workers may be able to claim compensation from WorkSafe for a loss of earnings and treatment costs.

If someone dies, as in the case of Prestige Truck Bodies, their families could claim for treatment, burial or cremation costs and counselling. They might also be able to claim support in the form of a weekly pension or lump sum.

Blaine Hattie is a business lawyer and principal at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

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