Employer provided accommodation and duty of care
Employers who provide accommodation to employees in remote areas may have duties, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, to ensure the premises are safe and do not pose a risk to those using it.
What is employer provided accommodation?
Residential premises are considered to be employer provided accommodation when:
- the residence is owned by or under control of the employer;
- the residence is situated outside the metropolitan area or a gazetted townsite (including ‘cities’ such as Bunbury); and
- the occupancy of the premises is necessary for the purposes of employment because no other accommodation is reasonably available in the area.
The obligation does not apply where there is a written agreement that is a lease (otherwise known as a tenancy agreement) or lease like arrangement.
If the obligation applies to premises then it also applies to land and outbuildings that are intended to be used in connection with that premises (for example separate laundry facilities or outside showers).
What sorts of arrangement might this requirement cover?
Situations such as shearers, seasonal fruit pickers, construction or maintenance workers might be covered if the provision of accommodation is a necessary part of the working arrangement.
Arrangements such as seasonal grain handling staff would not normally be covered as most receival bins or depots are located in gazetted townsites.
What sorts of things do employers have to consider?
If you provide residential accommodation that falls into the categories covered by the change, you need to make sure that as far as practicable, the accommodation is maintained in a safe and healthy condition so that employees are not exposed to hazards at the premises. The following checklist, while not exhaustive, gives an indication of what might need to be considered. What is reasonable in the circumstances should also be taken into account. For instance what is expected in a situation involving mustering or fencing camps on a remote station would be different from what might be provided in a fixed building at the homestead.
- Is it maintained in good repair?
- Is it separated from hazards such as noise, heat, dirt and atmospheric contaminants?
- Are electrical outlets protected by residual current devices?
Access and egress
- Can people enter and exit the building safely, particularly in the event of an emergency?
- Have precautions been taken to prevent the outbreak of fire?
- Where appropriate, have portable fire extinguishers been provided and if so, are these regularly maintained?
- Are people clear as to what to do in the event of an emergency?
- Do you have an emergency evacuation plan in place?
- Are adequate and appropriate facilities for showering and handwashing provided?
- Have you taken into account what is reasonable having regard for the requirements of the people living in the premises?
- Is the accommodation in a clean and hygienic condition?
- Is there a readily accessible supply of clean, cool drinking water (at a supply point separate from the toilet area)?
- Are sleeping room furniture and fittings structurally sound and maintained in a safe condition?
Cooking and eating facilities
- Are cooking facilities maintained in a safe condition and is there reasonable access to appropriate food heating and refrigeration equipment that will maintain food fit for human consumption?
- Are there reasonable facilities for eating and preparing meals?
- Are any gas or electrical goods well maintained so that they are safe to use?
- Are occupants protected from extremes of heat and cold?
- Has provision been made for regular rubbish removal? Have suitable rubbish bins/receptacles been provided?
Ventilation and lighting
- Is the ventilation and lighting reasonable given the circumstances?
- Has provision been made for laundry facilities such as washtubs and a washing machine, depending on the duration and type of work?
- Are any electrical goods well maintained so that they are safe to use?
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