Skip to content Skip to footer

Shirking WHS Duties Could Cost More Than $1.5 Million

7 minute read

As a society, we have developed rules, regulations, and bodies of authority to ensure that our values, especially those that pertain to safety, are upheld. This provides a system that clearly outlines expectations of employers and their responsibilities to their employees. Further, if an employer decides to forego these responsibilities the system is able to enforce ramifications.

So, what does this mean and how is this relevant to road safety?

By now most of us know how dangerous our roads are and how that doesn’t change when we are at work. Obviously, we want people to be working in safe environments that ensure they arrive home the way that they left for work, and it’s not okay to be in a workplace that unduly puts their employees at risk. So, if a boss doesn’t know or understand their work-safe responsibilities, or they feel that they are unnecessary, ramifications can come in, with some fines in excess of $1.5million or even jail time.

Like many laws in Australia, they do vary from state to state, however most follow a few major principles.

If your employee is required to drive as part of their work duty, then you are responsible. This is not restricted to the transport industry.

Does your employee ever have to pick something up, such as printer ink? Do they have to go onsite for inspections, consultations, or quotes? Do they ever have to travel between locations while on shift?

If so, dependent on risk assessment, you may be required to ensure that your employees are informed about road safety. The employee having a valid driver’s license is not sufficient to cover the employer’s responsibility to ensure that their employee understands road safety in these circumstances.

It can seem redundant, because surely if they’ve been given a license to drive by the state, they are safe enough to drive. However, we all know that, for whatever the reason, people don’t always follow the safest road practices that they were initially taught. Further, when obtaining their license most people were not considering a workplace application.

The education should include the basics, such as speed kills, and impairment by drug or drink driving is dangerous. It also needs to include things such as fatigue and when to say no to getting in the car for work because they are not in a state to be a safe driver. It may seem illogical to instruct employees to say no to a work duty, however, them knowing when they shouldn’t be on the road could save you thousands if not millions.

If employees are using their own car (sometimes called a grey fleet) they also need to be taught the best ways to maintain it, and when to know if their vehicle isn’t in a safe condition to be driven.

On top of that you need to have procedures and policies in place for employee conduct and in the event of an incident.

Vehicle collisions accounted for 80 of the workplace fatalities in 2020. That is equivalent to 41% of all workplace fatalities that year. While only 6% of all Australian employees work in the transport industry.

So, even if all 49 of the recorded workplace fatalities in the transport industry were due to vehicle collisions, that would still leave 31 people who lost their lives working in other industries. That means that 38% of workplace fatalities in 2020 that were due to a vehicle collision occurred in an industry other than transport.

Training employees and having procedures that hold them accountable when they ignore the training will help reduce that number. It’s been demonstrated that employee morale (and thus productivity) increase when workers feel that their employers are genuinely concerned about their welfare.

So, what happens if an incident does occur and as an employer you’ve failed to meet your responsibilities?

The average worker’s compensation pay-out for an injury sustained by a vehicle accident is $18,500. Add onto that the wage of the person filling in their role, which is for over 2 months on average, and even if you’re paying minimum wage that comes out to over $9,000. So already you’re looking at $25,000.

Now consider the reduced productivity due to decreased morale, potential damage to essential equipment, and even mental health leave if other employees witnessed the traumatic event.

This doesn’t even touch on the fines.

In NSW if the owner or their safety officers failed to ensure that they’ve met regulations through training and policies then the fine can be upwards of $370,000. If the body corporate has decided to put off or not meet these regulations the fine more than quadruples to over $1.8 million.

Following close behind is WA, where if the owner or officer of the business owner does not meet their duties, the fine could be up to $350,000. As for the body corporate, if they fail their duties and put someone at risk, the fine could be up to $1.8 million as well.

As for VIC, owners and their officers failing their duties could result in fines of over $330,000; as for the body corporate, the fine could be in excess of $1.6 million.

In the NT, TAS, SA, and ACT offers fines up to $300,000 if owners or their officers don’t follow the legislation, and if the body corporate fails to make the right choice they could face fines of up to $1.5 million.

However, the state with the most expensive fines is QLD. Owners and their officers in the Sunshine State who fail to meet the requirements of their duties to their employees can result in fines over $430,000. If the body corporate fails on their part the fine can be in excess of an eye-watering $2.1 million.

We’d love you to choose our Drive It Home program to help keep your employees safe (which by the way, could be less than $17.95 per participant) but we just want you to do something.

Coming home safe shouldn’t be seen as a perk of a job, but rather the bare minimum.

About our program:

Drive It Home was developed after we became aware of how truly disproportionate the rate of workplace fatalities caused by vehicles was. Being a road safety organisation, we were aware of the dangers on our roads and how many variables can contribute to that. However, like most, we naively assumed that workplaces would be relatively safe in this respect because honestly how many people drive for work?

Then we saw the statistics and started to investigate further. Driving work duties are not limited to truck drivers and food delivery riders.

While a lot of employees probably don’t mind being tasked with a non-typical work driving duty, and potentially see it almost as a little break, they are being put at a risk that they otherwise wouldn’t have if they were sitting at their desk.

Our program can be completed within half a day and only requires your participation.

We can deliver the program in a variety of different ways:

  • We can send one of our presenters, who have first-hand experience with road trauma, to you to run a workshop
  • If you have several members of the team in different locations, we can even provide a virtual online class
  • Individuals can complete a self-paced online version – it doesn’t matter if you want to register 1 or 10,000 employees
  • You can even register yourself so that you know how to be the safest you can be on the road (and it can look good on resumes

Our Founder and CEO, who has a Master’s of Road Safety Investigation, is offering to consult with your team to help you develop policies and procedures so that you meet legislative criteria. We’ll even design custom road safety materials such as posters, to meet the needs of your company.

Prices per person start at $40 for the online self-paced and $1,100 for a group class (for a group of 15). We even offer discounts to large groups.

We have been able to reduce the cost of this program by subsidising it with the proceeds from our Traffic Offenders Intervention Program (program info here) as part of our commitment to helping the community.

*Prices as of 2023

To find out more info or to book online follow this link

If you have any questions or would like to talk more about Drive It Home, please contact us at: [email protected]

Sources: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20)

To find out more about our programs click HERE.

Take the Pledge to Road Safety | Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter ‘Road Matters’ | Listen to the ‘Behind the Road Toll’ Podcast

Get involved in the conversation and follow us on: