Negligence in the Workplace: Consequences, Rights, and Obligations

A workplace accident can be a nightmare for everyone involved. Whether you are an employer, employee, safety officer, or supervisor any untoward incident in the workplace can be an absolute pain to deal with. While it is true that some accidents are the result of unforeseeable ‘freak’ incidents, it cannot be denied that many workplace accidents can be prevented. Unfortunately, many workplace accidents are the result of negligence on the part of someone involved.

Accidents due to workplace negligence are the some of the worst. The resulting guilt and frustration that arises from knowing that the accident could have been prevented greatly affects a workplace. The consequences of negligence vary greatly, from information leaks to personal injury, and accidents can be dire, especially in high-risk work environments. Regardless of the severity of an accident, if it’s preventable, it it should be prevented.

This article aims to provide some general guidelines on how avoid negligence in the workplace. By providing a non-authoritative introduction we hope to encourage your business towards better workplace health and safety practice. Of course, we suggest that if your business is dealing with an incident of negligence or work-relating injury that you seek further professional advice.

What counts as workplace negligence? To quote the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017“A duty holder, in managing risks to health and safety, must:

(a)  eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable, and

(b)  if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety—minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.”

First of all, there was a duty that someone was supposed to perform. That ‘someone’ could be a floor worker or manager. Negligence can be defined as a breach of that duty. Issue arises when injury is the result of a breach of duty. Injury as a result of negligence therefore arises when proper steps were not taken to reasonably eliminate or minimise risks.

What you need to know about negligence and safety in the workplace

Whether you are an employer or an employee here is a brief overview of some of the issues and things to consider regarding negligence in the workplace.

Negligence in the Workplace: Consequences, Rights, and Obligations -

 

Consequences of negligence in the workplace

Physical injury

Physical injury is one of the most devastating consequences of workplace-related incidents and has the capacity to dramatically decrease a person’s quality of life. As such, taking action to prevent or decrease risks to health and safety should have first priority in your workplace.

Loss of income or lower monetary gain

Some accidents can involve machinery or tools and result in the damage of expensive equipment. Whether replacements are needed or production efficiency goes down, it’s very likely that an accident of this sort will cost your business money.

Also, if an accident results in physical injury, then there are likely to be associated costs. Treatments for recovery may cost the business due to worker compensation or you may lose a valuable worker for a period of time while they recover.

It is business savvy to spend time and effort setting up preventative health and safety measures. The benefits will outweigh any initial cost of safety equipment.

Lawsuits

Going to court is not the way to go. A severe incident may lead to a lawsuit. Workplace negligence is a serious legal issue and an employer may be liable for the negligent actions of their employees. So, as an employer, it is in your best interest to protect all of your workers, sometimes from themselves. Lawsuits cost businesses and individuals time, money, energy, and sometimes their reputation. Going to court is something to avoid by investing in thorough health and safety procedures from the start.

Damage compensation

Now, let’s consider the example of a consumer or client who has employed your business to supply parts for a construction project. If an accident results in damage to those parts, delay in supplying those parts, etc. then your business could be liable for Damage Compensation. According to The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission a consumer or client “can seek compensation for damages and losses you suffer due to a problem with a product or service if the supplier could have reasonably foreseen the problem. This is in addition to your repair, replacement or refund rights.” So here is another instance in which a preventable accident in the workplace can cost your business money. Damage compensation is another reason to consider purchasing safety systems to protect, not only your own workers and equipment, but also your client’s products.

Obligations of workers and employers

Providing a safe workplace

The responsibility to maintain a safe work environment falls on everyone in the workplace; from the floor staff to the manager. It is the responsibility of everyone to stay alert, pay attention to potential hazards and report them. As above, the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 highlights that this is a legal requirement.

Negligence in the Workplace: Consequences, Rights, and Obligations -

 

Whilst ongoing alertness is key, permanent safety systems and procedures are essential. Safety systems for the workplace can range from emergency escape paths to more sophisticated computerised systems. It is important to revisit and evaluate your business’ safety systems; don’t just install them and then assume ‘that’s that’. Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the systems in place and regularly remind workers of how they work and the protocols for emergency situations.

Consider health and well-being

Workplace wellness is a real and pressing issue in Australia. Anxiety or stress generated by the work environment seriously impacts health and therefore productivity. According to The Black Dog Institute research department at the Prince of Wales Hospital “mentally healthy workplaces are positive and productive. They are environments where people want to come to work. They can play a large role in promoting and maintaining our mental health and wellbeing. Research shows that mentally healthy workers are more productive and less likely to take sick leave.” In a workplace with heavy machinery or tools, moving vehicles or equipment, anxiety can develop if an individual doesn’t feel safe. Verge Safety Barriers can provide peace of mind in a high-risk work environment.

Your rights under existing laws and policies

Asking for a safe workplace

As discussed above it is a legal requirement for an employee to provide and maintain a safe work environment. As such, it is within the rights of an employee to ask for action to be taken to improve health and safety. In Australia there are multiple institutions and organisations that legislate and provide guidance for employers and employees in matters of health, safety, management, and prevention. Here are some examples, including those already mentioned above:

Black Dog Institute

Comcare

Safe Work Australia

NSW legislation

Heads Up

Compensation for injury or damage

If you have been involved in a workplace accident we recommend writing down all the details even if it was a minor incident. In some cases the severity of an injury does not present itself immediately and it might be some time before you realise and struggle to remember the cause. When seeking legal advice from a union or governing body the details you record can be imperative.

Information and education

Education about the safety systems your business installs is essential for all workers. Employees must understand how the system works, how to maintain it, and why it’s important. To repeat, safety is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace, and informing your workers is the first step towards responsible workers.

Losing your job, permit or licence

If you are found responsible for an accident or found guilty of negligence there is the danger of losing your job, operating permit, or even practicing permit. If an accident has serious implications, there are likely to be serious consequences for the parties found guilty of negligence. So, we would recommend you educate yourself on health and safety procedures in the workplace, stay alert to potential dangers, and promote compliance with OH&S codes of practice in your fellow workers and management.

Contact Verge Safety Barriers for more information about workplace safety and ways to prevent negligence

Investing in safety systems and products is imperative! Verge Safety Barriers is a great way to prevent accidents and injury in your workplace! Contact us to learn more about what Verge Safety Barriers can do for your workplace! Browse through our website to see the products we offer to improve safety in your facility. Drop us a line at 1800-765-539 or connect with us online. Our team will be more than happy to respond to your enquiries.

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