1 min read

Protecting vulnerable workers

By Michael Selinger

The recent prosecutions relating to the death of young worker while participating in a ‘Work for the Dole’ program, highlights the real safety dangers posed to vulnerable workers.

A fine of $90,000 was recently imposed on an employment services provider who placed an inexperienced work-for-the-dole participant with the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland (RASQ).

The worker, Mr Josh Park-Fing, was working at the Toowoomba Showgrounds on 19 April 2016 when he fell from the back of a flatbed trailer towed by a tractor.

Charges were brought against the RASQ as well as the employment services provider. The Court heard evidence that the work for the dole participants were expected to perform their duties without appropriate inductions and training, and with little supervision.

The employment services provider was found to have failed to take adequate steps available to it to make sure such training and supervision was provided by the RASQ.

Who is a vulnerable worker?

Your organisation must take steps to protect vulnerable workers.

A vulnerable worker is any worker who has a higher likelihood that a health and safety risk they are exposed to could result in an injury or incident in the workplace.

Vulnerable workers include:

  • young workers;
  • workers with language barriers;
  • temporary workers;
  • labour hire workers who are not familiar with the safety systems of the host employer;
  • work experience, work-for-the-dole workers or students; and
  • remote or isolated workers.

What you can do to protect vulnerable workers

If your organisation engages vulnerable workers, you need to take extra care to ensure that these workers:

  • are inducted into your workplace;
  • receive appropriate training in the safe work procedures of the tasks they will carry out for your organisation;
  • are given safe tools to use; and
  • are supervised adequately to ensure that they perform the work in a safe manner.

A trap some organisations fall into is to give vulnerable workers work tasks to complete that are unsuitable given their inexperience or lack of knowledge of safe work practices.

And since there is a higher level of risk with vulnerable workers, it is essential that you provide adequate supervision. This must be by a suitably experienced and knowledgeable person who can confidently manage and monitor the work the vulnerable worker is carrying out.

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