As an employer is it your responsibility to minimise workplace hazards and if so how?
Farmer Freddy's water bore has been drilled, securing Freddy a good supply of fresh water. But he now finds himself facing new water issues!
A tributary that runs through his farm became a river in a recent storm, carving out chunks of previously fenced land and making the land unstable. The same storm also damaged the storage shed, affecting his winter food supply. Freddy contacts Bob - one of his regular contractors - to help him fix the shed. The normal track to the shed goes over the now unstable land, but Freddy doesn't warn Bob about the hazard.
You don't need to be a clairvoyant to guess what happens next. When Bob goes across the unstable land on his quad-bike, it gives way and Bob tumbles down the bank, getting crushed by the bike! Bob - fortunately still conscious - rings Freddy on his mobile to rescue him. Freddy, with an ambulance crew, helps get Bob to hospital. He needs a couple of operations and is hospitalised for several days.
Freddy's just recovered from the shock when he finds the Department of Labour knocking on his door! Prudently, Freddy decides to give his lawyer (his daughter Pebbles) a call.
Pebbles tells him that he was the person in control of the work place so he is responsible for ensuring that all practicable steps are taken to minimise and avoid hazards that might cause harm or serious harm (which is defined in the Health and Safety in Employment Act). Although it depends on the specific situation, because Bob has been hospitalised for several days, the Department of Labour might well consider it serious harm, so may investigate the accident.
"Dad," Pebbles goes on, "as soon as the accident happened, you should have secured the accident site as well as possible, contacted the Department the straightaway and recorded the accident in your incident register."
"But Bob's an independent contractor," replies Freddy. "Shouldn't he be responsible for his own health and safety?"
"Yes Dad, but since you were in control of Bob's workplace, you had a duty to tell him about the unstable land, which was a significant hazard," Pebbles replies.
"Now, look Dad, you don't have to anything that will incriminate you but you do need to co-operate reasonably with the investigation. And remember, because you own the land and are in control of it, you are obliged to identify and minimise hazards. At the least, you should have put a sign up and maybe a temporary fence."
"Why do these things always have to happen to me?" moans Freddy, putting the phone down. "I think I need a cup of tea and a lie down."