The nature of employment is evolving. It is now common for work that was previously performed by employees to be outsourced to other entities or businesses, which can include labour hire or group training agencies. This often involves a triangular employment relationship where there is an agreement between a worker and the agency, and a commercial contract between the agency and host organisation.
These relationships often cause confusion about which party holds health and safety obligations – he host is not engaging the worker directly as an employee and the agency is not in control of the workplace, so the responsibility for safety obligations can become blurred. The model work health and safety legislation provides clarification on this issue by establishing that health and safety duties are held concurrently by both parties…but what does this mean in practical terms?
Work health and safety duties
Under the model work health and safety laws, host organisations have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all workers while at work, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes any labour hire workers at their workplace.
Labour hire agencies are also obligated to ensure the health and safety of workers during their placement with host organisations so far as is reasonably practicable. This involves the elimination of or, if this is not reasonably practicable, the minimisation of risks to health and safety that a labour hire worker may encounter during their placement.
The recent case of Boland v Big Mars Pty Ltd  SAIRC 11 highlights the serious consequences that can occur when a labour hire organisation misunderstands its duties and leaves all health and safety considerations to a host.
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