Don't let Christmas deadlines jeopardise worker safety

Tuesday, 19 December, 2017

Slater and Gordon is urging Australian employers to ensure their workers’ safety is the first priority as they rush to get jobs completed before the Christmas break.

Senior Workers Compensation Lawyer Meghan Hoare said the firm had regularly seen cases where employee safety had been overlooked in order to ensure a job or project was completed before the summer break.

Hoare said workers in construction, production and retail sectors were those most likely to be hurt at this time of year, with many suffering musculoskeletal injuries — caused by manual tasks done unsafely and without proper risk assessment.

She said accidents occurred when shortcuts were taken in relation to tasks such as stacking shelves without following manual handling standards, bypassing safety measures when operating machinery and/or using faulty or damaged equipment.

“The need to do jobs under pressure results in shortcuts being taken, which we know impacts the safety of workers,” Hoare said.

“Disappointingly, it has become very common for our lawyers to be contacted by workers who have suffered injuries as result of the additional workplace pressures, caused by rushing to meet the demands of the pre-Christmas rush.”

Hoare said putting workers’ lives and safety at risk was unacceptable — regardless of any pending deadline.

She encouraged workers who were concerned about unsafe tasks in their workplace to raise the issue with their managers.

“Workplace accidents can have permanent life-changing and devastating effects on a worker and his or her family,” Hoare said.

“All employees should be entitled to enjoy a safe and happy festive season with their families without the fear of suffering a workplace injury.

“We urge everyone to stop and slow down to assess the nature of the task with your colleagues and your boss. Communication with team members is the key to getting jobs done safely.”

Earlier this year, Slater and Gordon released results of a national survey of more than 1000 people, which showed that almost half had agreed to do an unsafe task at work.

The survey highlighted that of the 42% who had agreed to do an unsafe task, men and those aged between 25 and 34 were most likely to do an unsafe task.

Time constraints was the most likely reason (45%), followed by pressure from managers (30%), fear of losing employment (24%), pressure from co-workers (15%) and financial pressures (11%) — participants were able to give more than one reason.

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