$110,000 fine issued over violence risk at residential care home

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 15 August, 2022 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions

A government department and a community support services provider in Victoria has been fined a total of $110,000 after workers were exposed to the risk of occupational violence and aggression at a residential care home in Gippsland.

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (formerly DHHS) and Victorian Person Centred Services Limited were recently sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge each under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The department was, without conviction, fined $55,000 for failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks.

Victorian Person Centred Services was, without conviction, fined $55,000 for failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work.

The court heard in August 2015, a child with an intellectual disability and a history of violent behaviour was moved into a department-owned residential care home in Moe that was managed by Victorian Person Centred Services.

While the child was residing at the home, several workers were subjected to aggressive acts, including being punched and kicked, on different occasions over a number of months.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for both duty holders to ensure that the child’s behavioural management and support documentation did not discourage workers from taking refuge in the home’s office when facing threatening behaviour.

It was also reasonably practicable for Victorian Person Centred Services to have avoided rostering workers who were at a greater risk of assault by the child.

Duty holders must have systems and processes in place to eliminate or reduce as much as possible risks to workers’ health and safety, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director health and safety Narelle Beer.

“There is no excuse for failing to address the risk of occupational violence and aggression, even in workplaces facing complex physical and mental welfare challenges,” Beer said.

“No matter the situation, violence and aggression should never be seen as part of the job.”