Comcare Successful in Proceedings Against National Gallery of Australia

Alena Titterton writes:

Last week, Comcare, the agency responsible for workplace safety in the Federal jurisdiction, successfully prosecuted the National Gallery of Australia in the Federal Court of Australia for a breach of the Commonwealth OHS legislation.

The civil proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia arose from an incident involving contractors at the National Gallery of Australia moving temporary display walls for an exhibition. One of the walls fell in the process of being moved with a pallet stacker, trapping a contractor who was bracing the wall before the incident. The contractor was not injured in the incident.

Comcare’s press release states:

“Justice Gyles found that the contractors were exposed to an unsafe system of work and a subsequent risk to their health and safety. The National Gallery failed its duty of care by allowing contractors to access its premises and carry out the task of relocating large display walls, before a risk assessment and a Hazard Identification Control Table had been completed, reviewed and approved by the National Gallery.”

Justice Gyles of the Federal Court of Australia imposed a penalty of $20,000 on the National Gallery of Australia in one of the first cases of its kind.

The case highlights the fact that Comcare is prepared to take enforcement action against Commonwealth departments, agencies, authorities and bodies corporate for breaches of the OHS Act regardless of whether the risk to health and safety results in injury.