Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Heard today -bloody hell, I don't believe this!


TONY EASTLEY: A leading workplace health and safety lawyer says homeowners will soon be facing a possible six year jail sentence if a worker is injured or killed on their properties.

The warning comes as a Sydney homeowner faces a $70,000 compensation bill for the death of an electrician working on his home.
I caught this on the radio thismorning. All I could think was "WTF?".

ASHLEY HALL: The electrician Allan Harley was working on a terrace house in Sydney's inner-west in 2004, when he came into contact with a live wire and was electrocuted.

The New South Wales District Court last week ordered the owner of the home to pay Mr Harley's widow $70,000 in compensation.
I was just stunned. Then we learnt more about the case. The home owner had an old hot water service taken out and supposedly was aware there were live wires in the ceiling. Hmmm. Okay.

The owner of the house had a duty of care.

Fair enough.

ASHLEY HALL: So that means that home owners are required, essentially to check the work of any tradespeople that come through and make sure that they don't leave anything dangerous?

MICHAEL TOOMA: In effect it does mean that people have to take reasonable care to make sure that whatever they ask a tradesperson to do is safe for them to do. That requires a bit of vigilance on their part when they are commissioning work.

ASHLEY HALL: If all goes to plan, from 2012, the liability that flows when someone is hurt while working on your home will become criminal.

It's the result of an attempt to harmonise the states' occupational health and safety laws.

And again, I say WTF?

But look here:

ASHLEY HALL: Michael Tooma says people should be especially vigilant to make sure their home is safe if they've recently had ceiling insulation installed under the Federal Government's bungled scheme.

MICHAEL TOOMA: And that is precisely the sort of situation where you would want to go back and have another look at the work that has been done and make sure that your home is safe for you and your family importantly and I think, I think certainly the insulation scheme debacle has given people a wakeup call as to the sort of things that could happen when shonky work goes on in your home.
This really takes the cake:

MICHAEL TOOMA: The fact that they are doing work at a home makes the home for that period a workplace. It means that the people at that workplace have a duty to that workman. In effect, if they are negligent in relation to the workman who is doing the work, well they would be in breach of that duty and that duty is a statutory duty that creates a criminal offence, attracting penalties of up to $300,000 and/or six years imprisonment in a really serious case.
How is Joe (or Josephine) Ordinary expected to know that a tradesman they've employed hasn't left some dangerous thing somewhere on their property? What about the dodgy roof insulation (which was mentioned earlier in the interview).

Isn't that why you employ a tradesman in the first place?

Read it here.


Egg said...

Sounds like a lawyers' picnic - all wiring should be treated as 'live' - if in doubt, isolate; otherwise, you may join the many other stiff sparkies in purgatory...

Egg said...

'you would want to go back and have another look at the work that has been done and make sure that your home is safe'

Lawyer, Tooma, is sufficiently competent to do this (in his own home); or simply forks out the 70 large?

Carpe Jugulum said...

This is the great flaw in NSW OHS Law, that the employer, has an absolute duty. But also that under the NSW Act a reverse onus of proof applies (prosecution doesn't have to prove guilt you have to prove innocence).

The only flaw in their argument is that in regard to a homeowner is that the application of what a reasonable person would know can be used.

kae said...

I agree, Egg.
I do know of one bloke here on campus who was nearly electrocuted, he was lucky he didn't have hold of the live wire. The power was isolated, but there were other live wires not mapped in the building. Scared the bejabbers out of him. He's usually really cautious, too.

Carpe, it sux. Am I supposed to check all the work done on my property by tradesmen? How do I do that? How do I know that they've done the true and correct thing? And if I am electrocuted checking the insulation has been installed properly (ha, as if I'd be getting into the roof space, not on your nellie, smelly belly!), who does Floyd and me Mum sue?

Anonymous said...

kae, "How do I know that they've done the true and correct thing?"

this is the bit that stumped me too, if you knew all that, you wouldn't need a tradesman in the first place, you'd do it yourself.

I'm sorry for the widow of the electrician, but, sorry, in that trade the golden rule is "treat every wire as live!"

I remember well when the first microwave ovens came on the market, and badly or not at all trained servicemen treated the high voltage in microwaves as the high voltage in TVs.
High accelerating voltage in TVs have little current behind them while in microwaves they produce several amps.
Some were killed early on, unfortunately.