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How far does your health and safety liability extend?

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23 / Feb / 2012

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How far does your health and safety liability extend?

Question

Some of our employees play volleyball during their lunch break inside our factory – are we liable for any injuries sustained during this activity on their time but in our factory?

If so, can we get them to sign a waiver regarding any injuries obtained during this activity?

Answer

Yes, you will be liable for all injuries sustained during a workplace activity. Sporting games played during working hours, even ones played during lunch breaks, will be considered a workplace activity especially if it takes place on work premises.

The chances of injury are increased due to the fact that the workplace is not designed for such purposes and employees are not dressed in suitable clothing.

Written waivers as to injuries sustained during the playing of such sports are possible, but are inherently risky. There will always be the chance that such waivers may be found ineffective, and there is also the chance that a person not participating in the sport is injured as a result of those activities.

It is a difficult quest to balance both your employee’s enjoyment and your risk. If you give a direction that volleyball is not to be played and enforce it, you can demonstrate that the injury was not work related. Therefore, it is not compensable under Worker’s Compensation legislation. However, if you say it but don’t enforce it, effectively turning a blind eye, then you will be liable.

This is a commercial call for you. Do you want to foster team sport and fun at work? Or do you want to limit liability? The decision is yours.

Source: OH&S Bulletin 1/2/12

 

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