Work And Health Safety In Australia

Work And Health Safety In Australia

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Work And Health Safety In Australia

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Work And Health Safety In Australia

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Discuss about the Work and Health Safety in Australian Education Sector.

Work, health and safety are something which is given major significance in Australia, particularly through the applicability of the Work Health and Safety Act, 2011 (Cth) (Tooma, 2012). Through this act, a framework has been provided which protects the safety, welfare and health of all the workers at work. The people who are covered under this act include the workers, contractors, employees, subcontractors, volunteers, apprentices and trainees. Through this act, the primary safety and health is made the duty of the person who conducts the business or undertaking (WorkCover Queensland, 2017).
In the following parts, a discussion has been carried regarding the work health and safety in Australia, with a particular reference to the education sector. In this regard, the issues which are faced in the education factors pertaining to the WHS have been highlighted. This is followed by a discussion on the case laws where the education sector related cases in the matter of WHS have been elucidated. Lastly, before concluding the entire discussion, certain recommendations have been presented to deal with the issues highlighted regarding WHS in Australian education sector.
Issues of WHS in Education Sector
In the early and the middle childhood settings, the work health and safety is linked with everyday practices. In the early education and even outside the school hour care, the practices of health and safety focus upon the children needs. And as the services offered here are the workplaces too, there is a need for meeting the laws of WHS so that the educators are safe. Each year, a number of educators are injured in their early childhood place of work and the majority of these injuries include the ones which are musculoskeletal, due to the daily activities like lifting of children, play equipments, and even sitting on small chairs.
The universities, schools and libraries in Australia are such institutions on which the Work Health and Safety Act as they are deemed as workplaces. Due to these reasons, they have to be prepared for the risks associated with the health and safety at different places. It has to be clearly understood that there is a high risk of workings in the education sector and that there is an urgent need of forming strategies for managing such risks (Work Safe Victoria, 2017a). Some of the key risks in the education sector of Australia are related to the hazardous manual handling; and this includes helping the students particularly when there are special schools; for safeguarding against incidents where repetitive movements are involved, for instance typing. Some of the other issues which can be present in the education sector in the nation include the stress owing to the pressure of work; the risks of an individual falling, slipping or tripping; the improper use of the equipment and machinery in a manner where the safety is hampered; and such people who could exhibit certain behavior which was not predictable and can be best classified as being aggressive (Work Safe Victoria, 2017b).
The importance which is laid over the health and safety in the education sector is due to the fact that this sector involves toddlers, children, teenagers and adults. So, this is the sector which acts as building blocks for such individuals. These individuals are not capable of taking care of themselves and so, their safety becomes a more important duty for the people who have this responsibility. This responsibility is given to the ones who run such educational institutes pursuant to the provisions of Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Walker and Miller, 2013). The quality learning environment has been underpinned through this statute. In case there are issues surrounding the health and safety, due to which the safety, health and wellbeing of the staff, children, service visitors and families are affected, a quality childhood service cannot be guaranteed (National Alliance, 2012).
By adopting proper practices, procedures and policies of work health and safety, the responsibility of making available a safe place of work can be made certain and can be fulfilled by the management. Further, this would also help in avoiding the negative impact which can be otherwise a problem for the employees’ health and wellbeing. There is a need for strictly adhering to the health and safety duties imposed on the employees, and being provided with a safe place of work. It is also crucial that the work place is safe not only for the employees but for the children, service visitors and the families who visit the educational institute for them to be safe and their wellbeing being properly protected. There is also a need for providing quality early education through supportive working environment (National Alliance, 2012).
Case Laws
Case Name
WorkCover (Inspector Calvez) v TAFE Commission [2014] NSWDC 108
Sarah Waugh, aged 12, was an experienced ride, who was fatally injured on March 24th, 2009 while she was undergoing the course of riding lesson and she fell from the horse as the horse started galloping uncontrollably. She was undergoing riding lesson pursuant to the Dubbo Rural Skills and Environment Centre conducted course and was enrolled as an agricultural student. This centre was owned by Technical and Further Education Commission. The case was hence, brought against them as they had the duty by being the training provider, to maintain the safety of not only the workers, but also the children enrolled with it (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2014).
Legal Action taken
The defendant pleaded guilty to these charges as they failed to make certain that Sarah was not exposed to the risk. Under the erstwhile act of Occupational Health and Safety, 2000, particularly its section 8 the duty of employer was imposed on the defendant. For giving the verdict in this case, the court analyzed the capability of the trainer who was not only experience horseman, but also was a good trainer. Also, the condition of the horse was analyzed who was deemed as quiet and suitable for the beginner riders. Even though the hose was deemed as non-temperamental by the other experienced riders, he was held suitable for use by an inexperienced rider like Sarah (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2014).
The reason for holding the defendant liable was due to the fact that the house was not properly retrained and reconditioned as he was required to be done, owing to which he was unresponsive towards the inappropriate and unintentional cues from the inexperienced riders. The key parties of this were aware of the fact that the last race run by the horse unsuitable for inexperienced riders. The riding tuition would not have been opted for, in case the riding history of the horse was known. Even when these factors were present, the defendant still used the horse. And this clearly put the wellbeing of the student in danger, thus breaching the WHS provisions (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2014).
The Verdict
In this case, the District Court gave its decision against the defendant and found it guilty of breaching the erstwhile Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2000 (NSW)’s provisions. Due to these reasons, a fine of $300,000 was imposed on the defendant for failing to make certain that the non-employee was safe and that their wellbeing was not hampered. This was due to the fact that the horse was an ex-racehorse and not suitable for the beginners (Gadens, 2014).  
Case Name
Barry Johnson v State of New South Wales (Department of Education and Training) [2006] NSWIRComm 275
A case was made against the defendant for breaching section 8(1) of the erstwhile Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2000 (NSW) as they had failed in making certain that the welfare, health and safety of the employees was not put at risk, particularly that of Lindsay John Cotterill, Ronald George Calrow and Kenneth Charles Ambler regarding the failure of the employer in ensuring that the work was safe for employee, without a risk being placed to their health. In this case, the accused individual employed the teachers at the school when there was a possible risk towards the teacher in terms of psychological or physical injury due to actual threats of violence by AL and the need of restraining AL. On Dec 10th, 2001 AL became aggressive and restrained the three teachers. Due to this, Calrow was physically injured. Another issue which was addressed in this case was related to the post traumatic stress disorder caused to Ambler, McInnes and Cotterill due to being threatened by AL with a butcher’s knife (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2006).
Legal Action taken
The court identified that the defendant allowed AL to attend the school as a student even when he posed a high risk to Ambler, Calrow and Cotterill. The defendant failed to take the required steps towards proper risk assessment regarding the possible risk present due to the school being attended by AL. There was also a failure in making certain that the results were present for the complete psychiatric, medical and psychological assessment of AL. This was followed by the failure in informing the employees or even consulting them regarding the history of AL’s actual violence and the implementation of reduction or precautionary strategies. Lastly, they also failed in appointing the required security guards at school. Due to the similar reasons, the duty contained in section 8(1), which was owed to Ambler, McInnes and Cotterill, was also breached by the defendant (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2006).
The Verdict
In both of the issues raised before the court, the court found the defendant guilty. For the first issue, the defendant was awarded a fine of $100,000.00; and for the second issue, the defendant was awarded a fine of $120,000.00. This was coupled with moiety for each penalty to the prosecution. Though, these penalties were the reduced penalties owing to the principle of totality and significant commonality; otherwise, the court had awarded penalties of $140,000.00 and $160,000.00, respectively (Australasian Legal Information Institute, 2006).
The discussion carried on till now highlighted the manner in which the health and safety at the workplace in the Australian education sector can be impacted. In order to deal with such issues and the possible other related issues, some recommendations have been presented here. The first and foremost in this regard is the formation of a proper safety risk management system (Stoll, ‎ McGill and Ritchie, 2013). Under this system, there is a need to identify the possible hazards, asses the risks which are presented with each of these, manage or control such risks, and effectively monitor them. For instance, the clutter in the corridor can be eliminated so as to avoid a possible tripping hazard (Archer, Borthwick and Travers, 2014).
There is a need to eradicate the risk of injury which can be caused due to manual handling tasks which are repetitious, frequent, which are continued for longer durations and which are usually performed with improper technique or posture (Raydugin, 2016). Such issues can be avoided by providing proper manual handling training which covers the day to day practices; practicing of safe carrying and lifting; using proper aids like step ladders and trolleys; storing awkward and heavy items close to such places where they are needed; and using appropriate furniture and equipments. There is also a need to take steps towards minimizing of falls, slips and trips. This can be done by conducting proper safety checks of the toys, building and equipment; keeping the walkways clear; fixing the damages to the floor coverings and broken tiles (National Alliance, 2012).
The discussion carried on in the preceding parts clearly highlights the significance of the work health and safety of the workers in the nation. When a particular emphasis is given to the education sector, it becomes clear that these provisions are not only to be applied on the workers, but also those who are non-employees. There are different safety issues at workplaces in education sector, which can range from tripping, falling and slipping and even to the serious issues where the physical safety of the workers is put in a risky position. In this regard, the provisions drawn through the WHS legislations provide the requisite remedy to the injured party, as was seen in the case laws highlighted here. In order to deal with such issues, certain recommendations were drawn, where the primary one is to form a proper risk management system to effectively deal with such WHS issues. And by adopting these recommendations, the small issues can be avoided from being issues to case laws.
Archer, R., Borthwick, K., and Travers, M. (2014) WHS: A Management Guide. Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia.
Australasian Legal Information Institute. (2006) Barry Johnson v State of New South Wales (Department of Education and Training) [2006] NSWIRComm 275 (15 September 2006. [Online] Australasian Legal Information Institute. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]
Australasian Legal Information Institute. (2014) WorkCover (Inspector Calvez) v TAFE Commission [2014] NSWDC 108 (14 July 2014). [Online] Australasian Legal Information Institute. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]
Gadens. (2014) Work Health and Safety Legislative and Case Law Update. [Online] Gadens. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]
National Alliance. (2012) Work Health and Safety In Education and Care Services. [Online] National Alliance. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]
Raydugin, Y. (2016) Handbook of Research on Leveraging Risk and Uncertainties for Effective Project Management. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global.
Stoll, ‎ M., McGill, C., and Ritchie, J. (2013) Work Health and Safety. North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill Education Australia.
Tooma, M. (2012) Tooma’s Annotated Work Health and Safety Act 2011. New South Wales: Thomson Reuters.
Walker, L., and Miller, S. (2013) The Early Childhood Educator for Certificate III. North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill Education Australia.
Work Safe Victoria. (2017a) Education Sector. [Online] Work Safe Victoria. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]
Work Safe Victoria. (2017b) What are the risks?. [Online] Work Safe Victoria. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]
WorkCover Queensland. (2017) Work Health and Safety Act 2011. [Online] WorkCover Queensland. Available from: [Accessed on: 21/08/17]

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