Control of work systems
- The history & relevance of employers’ competency is epitomised in the principle of instruction (proper work procedures) and effective supervision.
- In Grizzle versus Frost an inexperienced employee received inadequate instruction from a supervisor resulting in the employee being injured.
- The supervisor was an agent of the employer and so the employer was liable.
Note: (Codification of Common Law principles)
- The passing of critical information or instructions to an agent does not absolve the employer of a duty of care.
- Instruction must be supported by:
- A safe system of work (methods)
- Selection of competent staff
- Training to maintain competence
Note – competence is not the same as ‘skill’.
- These concepts eradicated common and out-dated beliefs opening the door for compensation where injuries resulted from defects in equipment and methods or untrained staff.
- So we start to see common law duties being integrated into specified legislation which clearly defines responsibilities.
- The employer is to provide, maintain & ensure:
- Safe plant & equipment
- Safe work methods and that these are complied with
- Employees are trained and competent in their tasks
- Legislative compliance
- The employee is to:
- Use reasonable care for their own safety & that of others
- Be aware of danger & hazards
- Use equipment supplied & for the correct purpose
- Comply with the safe work methods
- Comply with all lawful instructions
- Pay attention to their work
Leading early cases at common law established the following codes of practice
- It is necessary to provide a hard form of barrier whether or not such a barrier (as machine guarding) is mechanically feasible or commercially practical.
- The likely & unlikely actions of employees have to be considered when designing barriers against hazards.
- A hazard cannot be made safe by solely relying upon the good behaviour of attentive workers. The designer of barriers needs to be aware of the worst aspects of human behaviour such as ‘inattention,’ ‘carelessness’, the effect of drugs, emotional upset or somnolence.
- It is necessary to design safeguards in such a way that even a person intent on self-injury will be protected.
- Ignorance of the existence of a hazard is not condoned, particularly where previous incidents & reports has alerted the responsible party.
Codification of common law in Australia
The history of common law codification in the United Kingdom was a precursor for similar changes in Australia.
Uniquely, the codification process took longer in the UK than it did in Australia.
In Part 4 we’ll look at the differences that started to occur even before Federation in 1901.