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Travelling Staff – Employer Occupational Health and Safety Responsibilities

A poll at a recent webinar of over 100 members of the Chamber of Commerce revealed most business did not have a current Travel Health policy. Very few systems were in place to protect either the travelling staff, or those who are sending them overseas. This is scary.

Workplace Safety is not just about Hard Hats and Ear protection

Current occupational health and safety legislation (Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Commonwealth)) (specifically sections 17 to 19 and 27)  directs employers as to what they are required to do to ensure the occupational health and safety of their employees when both overseas and travelling overseas.

  • Section 17 says that employers must “eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable… [or] if it is not reasonably practicable[,]… to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.”.
  • Section 18 expands upon this by defining what is reasonably practical.
  • Section 19 details more specifically what employers must do to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
  • Section 27 expands upon this and also expands the responsibilities of employers to their delegates.

It has been shown that an employer is responsible for the health and safety of their employees at all times while overseas or travelling overseas [1] . It has also been shown that ignorance of occupational health and safety legislation, the risks involved in an activity or whether an employer or their delegate were in the vicinity during an accident, do not exempt an employer or their delegate from criminal conviction and penalties [2] . It is important to keep in mind that these cases were upheld under previous legislation that has since been replaced with stricter, more detailed and more prescriptive occupational health and safety legislation.

In addition, each state has specific occupational health and safety legislation in addition to that passed by the Commonwealth.

Most people would not not walk around a construction site without a hard hat, or go to sea without lifejackets and a life boat, and yet they send travellers overseas without the right shots and proper documentation. 

Sending staff to a professional travel medicine service to have the recommended vaccines, pills, tests etc will minimise those risks of travel so far as is reasonably practicable.

Safety First 

  1. Favelle Mort Ltd v Murray [1976] HCA 13Hevi Lift (PNG) Ltd v Etherington [2005] NSWCA 42Watson v Qantas Airways Limited [2009] NSWCA 322.
  2. Inspector Ken Kumar v David Ritchie [2006] NSWIRComm 323 and 384Orbit Drilling Pty Ltd v R [2012] 35 VR 399

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