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November 2020

Failure to induct contractors delays emergency treatment for injured woman

Failure to induct contractors delays emergency treatment for injured woman

The Case

WorkSafe v Baptcare Ltd (2020)

Baptcare Ltd, the owner of an aged-care facility in Victoria, contracted Cater Care Operations Australia Pty Ltd (Cater Care) to provide catering services to residents, including morning and afternoon tea.

On 11 January 2018, an employee of Cater Care poured a cup of coffee for a 100-year-old resident who was mostly immobile. The coffee was left on a table near the resident.

Shortly after, the employee of Cater Care heard a knocking sound coming from where she left the coffee. The knocking was coming from the resident who was waving her arms and legs as the coffee had spilt on her upper thigh. Unaware that there was an emergency button located close to the resident, the employee of Cater Care left the room to seek assistance from an employee of Baptcare.

The resident was then wheel-chaired to her room and treated for serious burns. She died 2 weeks after the incident, however it was not alleged that any failings of Baptcare or the employee of Cater Care led to the death.

The Judgment

The Court found that Baptcare failed to ensure contractors were sufficiently inducted. This included a failure to ensure the contractors knew where the emergency buttons were located. The delay in emergency treatment being provided posed a risk to the residents of serious injury or death. As a result, Baptcare breached section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) as it failed to ensure that persons other than employees were, as far as reasonably practicable, not exposed to risks to their health.

Baptcare pleaded guilty and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 and $5,633 in costs.

WorkSafe Victoria also charged Cater Care with health and safety breaches. Cater Care entered into a $281,000 enforceable undertaking in lieu of prosecution.

The Lessons

Contractors performing work on your premises must be appropriately inducted. A failure to do so may result in a finding that you have failed to take steps to ensure the health and safety of staff and visitors on your premises.

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