Liveringa mounts legal challenge to Q Fever work order and wins

29 Mar, 2006 08:45 PM
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WORKSAFE has been forced to rethink its Q Fever strategy after losing its legal battle with Liveringa Pastoral Co.

The safety organisation inspected the group's Boyup Brook farm in December 2004 and issued a work order demanding its staff be vaccinated for the disease - even though there were no recorded outbreaks of Q Fever on the property.

Liveringa Pastoral Co partner Graham Laitt said he was not aware of anyone else in the area being issued a Q Fever work order.

"The way they worded the work order was so we would have to vaccinate people whether they wanted it or not," Mr Laitt said.

"Like we told them, we don't have a problem with putting a program in place because we think it is really important but we can't force people to be vaccinated."

In a letter to WorkSafe, Mr Laitt requested a review of the notice and asked for it to be cancelled or modified because many of his staff were casuals and they had never claimed workers' compensation for Q fever.

He also explained workers were given a letter of information about the disease and vaccination on commencing employment.

WorkSafe commissioner Nina Lyhne's reply was a letter that affirmed the original notice.

Mr Laitt then filed a notice of referral to the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal for a further review of the notice, which was successful.

"We felt that compliance would have resulted in us breaching other laws, in terms of employment and what we can and can't force people to do," Mr Laitt said.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act allows WorkSafe to ensure employees are not exposed to hazards as far as is practicable.

Mr Laitt said he believed the act did not give WorkSafe the power to order Liveringa employees be vaccinated for Q Fever, but acknowledged an education program was important.

"We put a lot of work into developing an education testing and vaccination program in our appeal of the order so that we could go to them and say, see how important it is to us?" Mr Laitt said.

At each point in the legal process, Mr Laitt said Liveringa attached draft detailed plans of how it would implement a policy to educate employees to be vaccinated for Q Fever at the its expense.

Lawyers representing Liveringa Pastoral Co and Worksafe drew up a system where employees who wanted to be vaccinated for could be, which has just been finalised.

"We actively encourage our employees to prevent the spread of Q Fever, which involves being tested and vaccinated where they feel that is something they wish to do," Mr Laitt said.

"We're not in a position to tell people they must do that, but we believe it is important to try and prevent the spread of it.

"We don't see it as an issue where we are at the moment.

"But it is not really a preventative measure; it is more of a compliance with the law."

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