New High Court Comments on Reasonably Practicable

In a decision published on 24 August 2016, the High Court of Australia considered elements of the legal test of Reasonably Practicable.

The case, Deal v Father Pius Kodakkathanath [2016] HCA 31, involved a primary school teacher who was using a step ladder to remove papier-mâché displays from a pin board on a classroom wall. During the task, she fell from the stepladder and injured her knee.

Much of the case considered the application of regulations 3.1.1, 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 and the concept of “hazardous manual handling task“.

However, the case also provided useful discussion on the concept of Reasonably Practicable.

You can access an update about the case HERE.

2 thoughts on “New High Court Comments on Reasonably Practicable

  1. Interesting – it seems having the procedure worked against them – as you often point out. Hell’s bells – where to from here?

  2. The judgement seems to have a couple of alarming implications.

    First, in addition to requiring the employer to identify the safest way of performing a task and having a system to ensure it happens that way, the employer is now under an open-ended obligation to anticipate all of the near-infinite number of ways an employee may choose to act (even ways that are completely unrelated to performing the task at hand), and have a system to constrain the employee from so acting, and presumably to have documented all those things as well.

    Second, the employer must ensure the employee does not lose their balance while performing the task, and have a system for doing so. In other words the judgement seems to suggest that even if the employee had been trained in ladder use and was physically capable of using it on the day, and a second person was there to assist, and the employee was required to keep one hand one the ladder for balance while descending, yet they still managed to stumble and injure themselves, then the employer remains liable because such an event happens regularly and could be anticipated.

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