What is the definition of the workplace? Does it cover the public car park next to the building?Section 5 of our OHS Act defines a workplace as follows: 'workplace means a place, whether or not in a building or structure, where employees or self-employed persons work.'

Unless staff are directed to perform work tasks in the public car park, it may not be considered 'the workplace' under the Act.

That said, under section 21 of our OHS Act, the employer has a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes providing 'safe systems of work' - such as the hours worked, the start and finish times and so on.

Under section 26, the person who has, to any extent, the management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.

In other words, there is a duty to ensure the safety of staff members when leaving work - particularly in the dark or in the early hours of the morning.

In addition to the duties under the OHS Act, there have been cases where employees who were attacked and suffered serious injuries have sued their employer for negligence. The court then considered whether this risk was 'foreseeable' and whether the employer should have taken appropriate measures.

We recommend scheduling a meeting with your DWG to discuss the issues, hazards, and risks and to identify measures to eliminate or minimise these risks.

If your organization has a health and safety team, they should assist with options and ideas.

Here are some things you might like to consider:

  • develop specific procedures and provide training
  • avoid staff working late/very early/on their own whenever possible - reschedule any work that can be done during 'standard' hours
  • improve lighting and security at exits and in car parks
  • provide staff with a car park at or near the office - this should be possible on public holidays/weekends when not all staff will be in attendance
  • arrange for security staff to accompany staff members to their cars
  • organise a car to drive staff to their cars
  • issue taxi vouchers for taxis for staff finishing very late to avoid public transport (some awards/agreements had this provision in the past)
  • organise/facilitate carpools
  • provide personal duress alarms
  • staff will probably have more ideas

As always, we strongly encourage workers to contact their Union for expert advice and representation on this, or any other, OHS issue.

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