A Perth based labour hire company has been fined $20,000 (and ordered to pay $517.50 in costs) for failing to ensure the safety of workers it supplied to a waste recycling company.
The company used an untrained recruitment consultant to undertake safety inspections on a WA Worksite. The recruitment consultant was “acting” as a safety officer but had no training or experience in undertaking risk assessments.
Eastlink Enterprise Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace for its labour hire workers and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court in August.
In 2013, Eastlink had supplied its employees to Resource Recovery Solutions in Bayswater, a company that specialises in recycling waste from construction and demolition sites.
The main part of the Resource Recovery Solutions workplace is a very large shed housing an automated recycling plant composed of numerous crushers and screeners with material being moved through on a series of conveyors.
Also inside the shed is a small prefabricated hut known as the picking station with a flat roof constructed of rectangular modular panels.
Passing over the picking station roof are two large conveyor belts that carry the recyclable material, which is mostly masonry plus dirt and sand. As the belts pass over the rollers, materials are jolted loose to fall on the roof of the picking station.
Cleaning this material off the roof of the picking station is usually carried out at the end of the day as part of a general workplace clean-up, with between two and four workers usually assigned to the task.
The task involves shovelling the material back onto the conveyor belt or off the side of the roof, requiring the workers to get very close to the edge of the roof.
The height from the edge of the roof of the picking station to the concrete floor below is 5.76 metres. The roof was not fitted with any edge protection, nor was any fall injury prevention system – such as safety harnesses – used.
A recruitment consultant from Eastlink was sent to the workplace before its employees were sent there, and he concluded that it was a suitable workplace. However, Eastlink had not trained the consultant in hazard identification at client workplaces, nor had he been provided with any sort of hazard identification checklist.
Some information was sought by the consultant in areas such as job duties, hours of work and break times, but the client was not asked if it had done any risk assessments on the tasks the workers would be doing.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the case should serve as a reminder to both employers and labour hire companies that they are responsible for the safety of labour hire workers.
“It is crucial that labour hire providers ensure that workplaces in which they are placing workers are as free from hazards as they can possibly be,” Mr McCulloch said.
“Keeping work placements safe should include providing a suitable induction specific to the workplace and carefully assessing the workplace for any potential hazards before placements are sent there.
“Not only did Eastlink fail to identify potential hazards in the workplace to which they were sending workers, the company failed to even identify all the tasks their employees would be carrying out.
“It is also important that the workplace is monitored by the labour hire company to ensure that safety and health requirements are continuing to be implemented and that no new risks have arisen.
“In this case, the recruitment consultant did visit the workplace regularly, but he never saw or spoke to the labour hire workers placed there to check if they were satisfied with safety at the workplace.
“In addition, Eastlink was aware that its workers were being directed to conduct work at heights, but failed to do any assessment of the work being done.
“In fact, the court was told that one of the work placements rang a director of Eastlink to report his concerns about being required to work at heights with no safety measures, but the director did not take any action.
“Labour hire companies need to get the message that they share responsibility for the safety and health of every worker they send to a workplace.
“This case should also serve as a warning to employers that the courts are willing to impose fines for unsafe work practices even if no incident has occurred.”