A recent WorkSafe prosecution is a timely reminder that subcontracting out work doesn’t remove an organisation's legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the workers carrying out the work.

On 11 February 2021, the Ministry for Primary Industries was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay reparations for failing to make sure that workers subcontracted to a contractor engaged by the Ministry weren’t exposed to hazardous chemicals.

MPI had contracted AsureQuality to help manage an outbreak of Mycloclasma bovis. AsureQuality then engaged OneStaff to provide temporary workers to carry out cleaning and disinfecting work on a farm.

While the cleaning work was being carried out, a toxic cleaning product seeped into the cuffs of the workers gloves that had been supplied as PPE. Eight workers received chemical burns.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that:

"MPI failed to adequately consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with the other parties to ensure work was being carried out safely. Additionally MPI failed to ensure a safe system of work for the OneStaff workers."

As readers of ComplyWith’s Obligations Register will know already, organisations with overlapping duties must consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with the other organisations. Organisations can’t contract out of this important duty.

The obligation to ensure a safe system of work is part of the ‘primary duty of care’ on all organisations.

The WorkSafe investigation highlighted the importance of contracting parties being very clear about who is making sure health and safety risks are being managed. This is a proactive and ongoing responsibility. While this applies to all types of operations, hazardous substances is a particularly risky area.

Our key take-out from this case is: If you’re working with other organisations and you’re not crystal clear on who’s managing the health and safety risks, find out, and make sure it’s done.

To find out more about how to manage overlapping health and safety duties, see WorkSafe’s Overlapping duties – quick guide.

To read more about this case, see WorkSafe’s media release.



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