Employers should take care that their training systems incorporate safe work procedures sufficient to ensure a safe work environment. This includes when utilising online training, ensuring the training provides information on potential hazards and how to work safely, and is complimented by on-the-job training by competent personnel who have received safety training or certification.

In the recent case of Boland v Kentucky Fried Chicken Pty Ltd [2017] SAIRC 16, a restaurant chain employer was convicted of an offence under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) for failing to provide and maintain a safe work procedure for filtering oil and cleaning fryers. Deficiencies in the employer's training methods came to light when a 16-year-old worker suffered severe burns after tripping backwards into a tank of hot oil. A co-worker had been teaching new staff to clean the fryers when he left the tank on the floor behind the injured employee without warning.

An Industrial Magistrate found the employer had failed to ensure that staff were adequately trained in how to safely filter and change the oil. The employer had relied on an internal website and limited demonstration to teach employees the task.

The website did not address the potential hazards involved in the task and provided no information on where workers should place the tanks while the oil was being filtered. Further, the worker who left the oil on the floor had not been shown the website information, had never been tested on his competence in the task of filtering oil or required to demonstrate the process to a supervisor. Although he trained other staff members in the task, he had not been given any specific safety instructions about how he should carry out the training.

The employer was ordered to pay a penalty of AU$105,000 and since the incident has overhauled its oil filtering procedures and implemented new competency standards and certification requirements for employees.

The case highlights that employers who use online training methods for work procedures should:

  • Conduct adequate hazard identification and risk assessments in the workplace prior to establishing training systems
  • Ensure their online training properly covers associated hazards and methods of safe work
  • Have systems in place to ensure employees have accessed and understood the information
  • Supplement online learning with appropriate on-the-job training by competent personnel and skills assessments