WHSQ fails in prosecution of regional health provider
One of the state’s largest regional health services has succeeded in defending a claim brought against it by Queensland’s work health and safety regulator, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ), that they had failed in their legislative duty to ensure the health and safety of workers.
WHSQ pursued charges in the Magistrates Court against Darling Downs Health (DDH) following an investigation of several incidents at their facilities, including the Toowoomba Hospital’s Acute Mental Health Unit (AMHU).
DDH manages a number of hospitals across the Downs and Southwest Queensland, as well as providing community and primary health services to approximately 300,000 people at 28 locations.
One of the more significant incidents occurred in July 2019 when a male prisoner who transferred to the Acute Mental Health Unit attacked a male psychiatric nurse. As a result of the incident, the nurse sustained a brain injury.
Magistrate Clare Kelly noted that immediately following the incident, DDH implemented several measures, including placing security at the AMHU facility and increasing staff-to-patient ratios.
Magistrate Kelly determined that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “the control measures as particularised by (WHSQ) were reasonably practical measures for (DDH) to ensure the health and safety of workers and other persons”.
The Magistrate commented that staff had mixed views over the engagement of security officers at the facility, noting,
“The prosecution has not proven the presence of a security officer permanently in the HDU would have a positive impact in minimising or eliminating the risk posed by patients”.
Magistrate Kelly also rejected claims by the prosecution that the hospital could have been more vigilant to ensure patients could not utilise furniture as a weapon against staff.
As she noted,
“I do not consider the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt that any of the particularised control measures regarding the use of the furniture within the AMHU were reasonably practical means of ensuring the health and safety of workers, or were already noted”.
Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, employers have a duty to eliminate risks to health and safety as far as is reasonably practical, and if it is not reasonably practical to eliminate the risk, to minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practical.
For queries about safety issues, dealing with inspectors or WHSQ, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.