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Manager Found Liable For Workplace Accident

Posted by Robert O'Neill on Sep 29, 2014 8:32:00 PM
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Manager Found Liable For Workplace Accident

Managers and supervisors must understand their legal responsibilities.

In a recent case in SA, a site supervisor has been convicted and fined $1,750 plus costs for a breach of S21 (1) (a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The maximum he could have received is $10,000, and if this case was brought in a Harmonised jurisdiction, he could have been fined up to $300,000.

Even if the employer is not fined, a supervisor can be, for a failure to take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the health and safety of workers.

This supervisor failed to ensure that safety control measures prescribed in a code of practice were implemented. The supervisor noticed a pre-cast concrete panel being used in the construction of a warehouse had only one lifting and bracing point instead of the usual two. But failed to mention this to anyone.

The crane lifted the panel into place and the site supervisor asked two workers to adjust it to the required position. The site supervisor thought that the crane would continue to hold the panel in place during this adjustment. This did not occur. The panel was released and the site supervisor failed to notify the workers. The panel fell and crushed a truck nearby. Luckily the workers escaped without an injury.

Now that you have an insight to what happens when it goes wrong, let’s talk about what happens when it goes right.

When it comes to Work Health & Safety, the management team needs to lead by example. Demonstrate to the staff that you’re committed to creating a safe, productive workplace and they will follow your lead.

There are various ways management can display their commitment to WH&S, including visual demonstrations of policy adherence, personal initiatives by managers, recognition of contributions to WH&S, and the resolution of conflicts between WH&S objectives and other business objectives.

All managers should demonstrate visible and pro-active commitment to WH&S issues. This should include:

- Open communication of WH&S issues to personnel;
- Encouragement and leadership in the implementation of WH&S systems, procedures and initiatives and in the facilitation of improvement programmes;
- Personal initiatives and pro-active involvement in the direction and support of improved WH&S performance; and
- Encouragement of the involvement of workers in the improvement of WH&S performance.

Guidance should be provided to your managers as appropriate, on specific initiatives that can be undertaken.

Personal Initiatives

Personal initiatives of managers in the promotion of WH&S improvement should include:

  • Setting clear WH&S objectives;
  • Conducting site visits, safety walks, and participating in WH&S activities;
  • Participating in WH&S audits, inspections, hazard identification and incident investigations;
  • Encouraging accountability for WH&S issues;
  • Putting WH&S first on the agenda at meetings;
  • Participating in, and chairing, WH&S meetings;
  • Promoting WH&S initiatives;
  • Encouraging open communication on WH&S issues;
  • Involving the workforce in addressing WH&S issues; and
  • Encouraging continuous improvement of WH&S issues.


Arrangements should be in place to recognise outstanding WH&S performance by your personnel.

Recognition may be made for a specific contribution to WH&S (e.g. identifying and rectifying a significant hazard) or for long-term contribution. In addition, recognition may be given to individuals or to teams.

Recognition may be given in a number of ways, such as:

  • Monthly Awards
  • Praise (e.g. at a meeting of the person’s co-workers);
  • A monetary reward;
  • A certificate presented by a senior manager;
  • A valuable item (e.g. a watch, a pen, a household appliance, etc);
  • Other rewards (e.g. a weekend in a hotel or a resort)

Managers should be given guidance on the appropriate recognition for various contributions, so as to ensure a consistent approach throughout the organisation.

In all instances, details of the recognition should be well publicised and communicated to all workers.

Where conflicts exist between WH&S objectives and other business objectives, managers should resolve such conflicts so that, as far as reasonably practicable, outcomes are consistent with the organisation’s WH&S Policy.

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