Australia: Work Health and Safety: defence available for workplace accident

Last Updated: 20 June 2014


Article by Tiana Daly

Watkins Tapsell

I have written previously about the legislative changes to the Work Health and Safety Act and in particular the positive aspects of the changes being the defence available to Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) in the event an accident occurs in the workplace.


We now have decisions of the District Court illustrating how the defence works.


In the case of Workcover v Patrick Container Ports 17 February 2014, the court found that there was nothing further that could have been done by the PCBU that was reasonably practicable to avoid the incident.


In this case a worker was killed and others injured when trying to change a tyre. It was found that the worker had been shown how to change the tyre safely but removed the tyre in an unsafe manner anyway. The worker was experienced and the incident occurred in the course of conducting his usual duties.


The court found that despite the failure to have a written risk assessment by the PCBU and the training of the worker was not formally documented, it was satisfied that the worker knew how to perform the work safely and the added documentation would have made no difference.


Every case turns on its own facts. There were many factors that were taken into consideration by the court including that the worker had methamphetamines in his system at the time.


The PCBU was acquitted.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.


David Cormack – Brisbane Barrister.

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