Can an employer be required to issue body cameras to staff?

Company cites privacy issues in response to regulator's OSH notice

Can an employer be required to issue body cameras to staff?

The Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal dealt with the case of an employer who questioned the notice of a regulator to require body-cams on its staff.

The order came after reports of workplace aggression were brought to light but the company cited privacy issues.

In June 2021, a WorkSafe Inspector issued an improvement notice to Ramsay Health Care Australia Pty Ltd regarding a breach of the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act) at the Peel Health Campus in Mandurah. 

The notice said the company violated the OSH Act because its security and emergency department staff were exposed to the risk of occupational violence and aggression.

Due to these findings, Ramsay was directed to issue body-worn cameras to the concerned staff to reduce the identified risks.

Disagreement over request

Around October 2021, Ramsay argued that it did not violate the OSH Act and said that it did not consider the introduction of body-worn cameras to be “an effective control measure.”

It said that such cameras “introduce further risks because there is insufficient evidence that they are an effective risk control measure” and added that they would be “a speculative trial control measure” and “may increase risk of violence.”

It also said body-worn cameras “would result in difficulties associated with privacy issues.”

Afterward, it submitted information to the Commissioner about the controls, policies, and operating procedures that are in place at Peel Health Campus, including in the Emergency Department.

It wanted to demonstrate that every possible measure was being done to ensure safety and risk mitigation against occupational violence and aggression within the emergency department.

Meanwhile, WorkSafe submitted that the improvement notice itself addressed the entirety of the control measures and the safety practices at the site. It said the notice shouldn’t be disregarded since a lot of key issues were also pointed out, such as ongoing installation of duress alarms, and improvements made to the aggression prevention and intervention training provided to staff

HRD recently reported about the government’s new 10-year strategy that seeks to cut down the number of workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses over the next decade.

In other news, the government also passed amendments to the country’s Work Health and Safety Act that make it easier to penalise negligent employers who put staff in health risks.

Duties of employers

Under the OSH Act, an employer shall, so far as is practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which the employees are not exposed to hazards and in particular, but without limiting the generality of the foregoing, an employer shall:

(a) provide and maintain workplaces, plant, and systems of work such that, so far as is practicable, the employees are not exposed to hazards; and

(b) provide such information, instruction, and training to, and supervision of, the employees as is necessary to enable them to perform their work in such a manner that they are not exposed to hazards; and

(c) consult and cooperate with safety and health representatives, if any, and other employees at the workplace, regarding occupational safety and health at the workplace; and

(d) where it is not practicable to avoid the presence of hazards at the workplace, provide the employees with, or otherwise provide for the employees to have, such adequate personal protective clothing and equipment as is practicable to protect them against those hazards, without any cost to the employees; and

(e) make arrangements for ensuring, so far as is practicable, that —

(i) the use, cleaning, maintenance, transportation and disposal of plant; and

(ii) the use, handling, processing, storage, transportation and disposal of substances at the workplace is carried out in a manner such that the employees are not exposed to hazards.

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