The NSW Industrial Relations Commission recently fined a company $80,000 because it failed to adequately communicate with its non-English speaking workers on a residential construction project, and an employee suffered serious injuries during a scaffolding collapse as a result.
The company, East Sun Building Pty Ltd, employed workers who could not speak English, so their supervisor (also the company’s general manager) needed to translate any instructions.
Other contractors on the project advised the supervisor not to use scaffolding at the site as it was in a partially dismantled state, and that other safe scaffolding was available if required.
The supervisor, however, failed to pass these instructions onto his workers.
Commenting on the case, Michael Tooma, partner at law firm Norton Rose, also noted that the company’s workers did not hold appropriate qualifications, the company did not keep any records of their training, the injured worker was not provided with any instructions as to how to undertake the work, nor was he provided with any safe work method statements or work procedures for the project.
“This case is an important reminder for employers that they must go the extra mile in order to ensure migrant workers understand occupational health and safety obligations and procedures,” said Tooma in a Norton Rose case update.
“Overcoming the language barrier is just one hurdle. Another consideration for employers needs to be that some migrant workers may not come from countries where occupational health and safety is a part of their working culture, and the business has an obligation to take extra steps to ensure workers grasp the seriousness with which workplace safety obligations are taken in Australia.”
East Sun Building was also ordered to publicise their conviction in newspapers in English, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese and Mandarin, as these languages represent the nationalities that predominantly undertake finishing trades in the Australian construction industry, according to Tooma.