Worker burned at offsite retreat

By Jeff Salton on February 13th, 2018
  1. Fire, Emergency & Incidents
  2. Fire Safety


Companies that organise ‘retreats’ or overnight off-site training or bonding exercises, should take note of the following case.

In Frankston Magistrate’s Court, a Melbourne-based childcare centre that organised an annual weekend retreat with its employees was penalised $16,000 after one of its workers suffered severe burns at the overnight event.

On this occasion, 1 May 2015, the retreat took place at a rental property at Fingal, near Cape Schanck. The employees had the use of an outdoor fire pit at the rental property but at the time there were no instructions on how to use the fire pit safely or the risks associated with its use.

There was a risk that persons in the vicinity of the fire pit could be injured if the pit was not used in a way that was safe, including when ethanol fuel was poured on the fire while it was still alight or when re-lighting the fire, which is what happened.

One of the employees was injured when a co-worker poured ethanol into a cylinder at the centre of the fire pit while the fire was still alight. A ball of flame exploded from the fire pit and engulfed the nearby worker, igniting her clothes.

She suffered third degree burns to 17% of her body and was in hospital for six weeks.

The childcare centre pleaded guilty and was placed on an adjourned undertaking for 12 months, without conviction, with a condition that it make a donation of $15,000 to the Alfred Hospital Burns Unit. It was also ordered to pay $1,000 costs.

The scenario could have been much worse.

The chapter Managing Work-related Functions (M2) in the Health & Safety Handbook, outlines in great detail how to limit or remove risks like the one above.

The chapter takes you through the important task of identifying the health and safety hazards, which will obviously depend on the type of function you are organising, as well as things like the location and workers who will be present.

Common health and safety hazards at work-related functions include those related to:

  • the venue or location of the function;
  • alcohol consumption; and
  • bullying, discrimination or harassment.

There are also six checklists to help ensure you are leaving no stone unturned when considering your workers’ safety.

Remember, these events are meant to bring unity and sense of purpose to the business. A tragedy at one of these get-togethers can have the opposite effect.

Don’t risk it. Get your copy of the Health & Safety Handbook today and leaf through the more than 70 chapters on the A-Z of workplace safety on an obligation-free trial. Do it before you plan your next event.


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