Much of Victoria’s Occupational Health & Safety Legislation is aimed at the obligations of employers to their staff. It also sets out however obligations that employees owe whilst at work.
Specifically, whilst at work, employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, as well as that of persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions in the workplace. When determining whether an employee is guilty of a breach, the Court looks to what that person knew about all the relevant circumstances.
Further, employees must not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse things in the workplace.
The penalties for employees breaching their obligations are monetary, and can be up to the same amount for an individual charged as an employer, being up to 1800 penalty units, or approximately $285,000.
Prosecutions against employees are less common than those against employers, but do occur. Below are some examples of employees who have been prosecuted for breaching their obligations:
- An electrician was fined $16,000 for instructing a first-year apprentice on four separate occasions to undertake tasks, which should have been performed under direct supervision of a qualified electrician, unsupervised.
- An employee at a Timber & Hardware store jokingly pointed a nail gun at another employee’s foot. The nail gun discharged, nailing his foot to the ground. He was fined $2,000.
- An employee of a retail gas seller lit a cigarette lighter within a short distance of another employee who was filling a gas cylinder. The lighting caused a ‘flash flame’. He was fined $1,000.
If you are charged as an employee, or are an employer who has an employee charged by Worksafe, please contact our office on 03 9034 7351 for a free case consultation.