Employing seasonal or temporary workers

August 15, 2018

Employing a seasonal or temporary farm worker through a labour hire firm does not free you of your responsibility for their work health and safety.

Although you should confirm with the labour hire agency that it has met its own obligations, you have the same health and safety duties to these workers as to your own employees.

When contracting workers through an agency, make sure you provide details of the nature of work to be carried out, any plant or equipment to be used, any health and safety risks associated with the work, and any skills or knowledge required to safely undertake the work.

You should also verify that the workers have any necessary qualifications, licences, skills and training to safely carry out the work.

Responsibilities

National and state-based inquiries into the labour hire industry over the past few years found some instances of the avoidance of paying work injury insurance premiums, the abuse of visas and the practice of sham contracting.

The evidence heard at these inquiries, and investigations undertaken by SafeWork SA, have highlighted the need to ensure that all parties in a labour hire arrangement are aware of their duties and responsibilities.

If a labour hire worker is put at risk of serious injury, or is seriously injured or fatally injured at work, depending on the circumstances, both the labour hire agency and the host employer could potentially be prosecuted for a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

In April 2016 the Industrial Court convicted and fined a labour hire agency $240,000 for failing to provide a safe system of work and failing to provide information, instruction, training and supervision. It is the highest penalty recorded against a single entity since South Australia adopted nationally harmonised work health and safety laws in January 2013

After they start work

While labour hire workers are carrying out work for you, you need to treat them as you would new workers by:

  • inducting them – tell them about work health and safety duties, policies, procedures and practices in the workplace, including consultation methods and emergency procedures
  • providing a safe working environment and checking that they have the necessary personal protective equipment
  • providing adequate supervision
  • consulting with both them and the labour hire agency about changes and obtaining the approval of the agency to the proposed changes
  • encouraging them to participate in the identification of hazards specific to their work
  • supporting and encouraging them to participate in workplace consultative arrangements
  • encouraging them to maintain contact with the labour hire agency throughout their placement.

For information about SafeWork SA’s free mobile work health and safety advisory service, including to request a visit, call 1300 365 255 or visit safework.sa.gov.au/freeadvice.

Article kindly provided by SafeWork SA.

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