Excellent article on linkedin by the Harmonisation Guru, Graham Dent – see it Here
. ► VOLUNTEERS
There are a lot of myths about at the moment as we await the final regulations and first phase COPs.
On my way back from a meeting I just heard a story on ABC radio 774 about the strong concerns being expressed by the organisation Volunteers for Isolated Students Education (VISE) (see who they are here: http://www.vise.org.au/ ) that the new WHS laws threatened their existence with huge fines if they could not guarantee “perfect safety” for the many “elderly volunteers” they send to remote locations. They wanted the legislation amended and said they could not fund a test case.
This reveals a number of serious misconceptions about the new law, and the existing laws. These misconceptions being broadcast without an accurate and timely response lead to community resentment and misunderstanding about the importance of OHS law.
So what was wrong with the VISE views:
(1) No one, even the most ardent safety advocates, has ever said that there must be “perfect safety”. It is as now, based on what is “reasonably practicable”.
(2) The VISE web site explains that the “The VISE scheme is voluntary. This means that it has no paid personnel whatsoever at any level.”
This means it is not a PCBU and its activities fall genuinely within the “volunteer association” exemption. As a volunteer association it is not considered to be PCBU under the Act and it cannot be prosecuted for an offence under the Act. Voluntary officers of such corporations or unincorporated associations cannot be prosecuted for an offence under the officer duties in the Act. Nor are they workers and accordingly the obligations applicable to workers do not apply.
See the more detailed discussion on volunteers elsewhere in the WHS Harmonisation Group:
► Volunteer Group WHS Changes – http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?
► Sporting (incorporated) associations – meeting due diligence obligations
(3) If a Volunteer Association did have paid staff then although volunteers would not under current laws be considered “employees” they would fall within the scope of the protections accorded to “other persons” – for example, section 24 of the Vic OHS Act which provides that an employer must “ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees .. are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer.
Common law duties of care may still arise. Volunteers, like ANY person, still hold a duty of care for others where it can reasonably be foreseen that their acts or omissions could harm others to whom they owe a duty. In such cases volunteers can be liable to civil damages claims.
Why not consider joining the Linked In Harmonisation Group?
Join the Work Health Safety (OHS) Harmonisation Group and share in the discussion and links to resources with more than 1000 others – including OHS professionals, business owners, managers, HSRs, union representatives, representatives from most regulators including Safe Work Australia … oh yeah .. and a few lawyers – sorry – but we have to go somewhere ; )