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Who is really responsible in work-related car accidents?

Whilst travelling to a work meeting last week, I was stationary behind a line of traffic that had stopped. A large 4WD speeding up the road hit the vehicle behind mine which was, in turn, pushed into my vehicle, a very common occurrence. My initial response was to get out of my car and check to see if the people travelling in the other vehicles were ok. In the process, I stepped out on to a busy six lane road….

I was recently asked at a seminar “how does an employer (or PCBU) protect themselves from claims and WHS prosecutions resulting from journey-related claims?” In the case of my accident, there was no way that a PCBU could be responsible for the large 4WD hurtling towards the collision.

So is that the end of the PCBU’s responsibility? The answer simply is NO.

Besides the obvious Workers Compensation Act implications which are unavoidable for a PCBU, there are Work Health and Safety Processes, Policies and Procedures that an employer needs to have in place in the event of such an incident. The requirements of the employer are higher if the vehicle is a work vehicle, and higher again if the nature of the work itself involves the use of the vehicle.

PCBU’s need to ensure that their workers are kept safe so far as is reasonably practical. What ‘reasonably practical’ means will vary from industry to industry, but may encompass ensuring your workers have drivers licences, are not intoxicated, are versed in safety procedures (so they don’t step out in traffic like I did), that their vehicles are road worthy, and that the workers are not over tired, to list the more common considerations.

The new legislation surrounding OHS in NSW has raised the bar of responsibility for PCBU’s in all facets of the working environment. Do not wait for a work incident to occur before questioning if you have met all your duties under the new legislation.

As for me, our policies are in place and my car is off to the panel beaters!

For further information contact the Workplace Law Team