Fines over violence risk at residential care home

A government department and a community support services provider have 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.

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Published: 10 August 2022

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (formerly DHHS) and Victorian Person Centred Services Limited were sentenced in the Melbourne County Court on Friday 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 on workers who were at a greater risk of assault by the child.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said duty holders must have systems and process in place to eliminate or reduce as much as possible risks to workers' health and safety.

"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," Dr Beer said.

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

To prevent and manage the risk of violence and aggression employers should:

  • Identify occupational violence and aggression hazards in the workplace and assess the risks.
  • Consult with workers to implement controls to eliminate or reduce the risk.
  • Promote a culture that does not accept violence and aggression.
  • Develop and implement health and safety policies and initiatives focused on occupational violence and aggression.
  • Encourage reporting and act on these reports by investigating incidents and reviewing existing controls.
  • Support staff development in de-escalation and processes for early intervention and management.
  • Allocate resources to prevention and management.
  • Support employees who have been exposed to occupational violence and aggression in the workplace.