Qantas boosts safety processes after cleaner injury at Canberra Airport

Qantas will spend $680,000 to strengthen its workplace safety procedures after a cleaning contractor fell and hurt his back at Canberra Airport.

An employee of Qantas contractor Star Aviation fell backwards from a service door as he cleaned the cabin of a Q400 turboprop aircraft parked in the airport's QantasLink hangar on January 31, 2014.

Qantas entered into an enforceable undertaking  with WorkSafe ACT to improve its safety practices and will donate ...
Qantas entered into an enforceable undertaking with WorkSafe ACT to improve its safety practices and will donate $70,000 to the Snowy Hydro Southcare rescue helicopter .  Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The worker dropped 1.5 metres onto the concrete ground of the maintenance hangar and sustained spinal injuries.

He has since returned to work.

WorkSafe ACT investigated the incident and alleged the airline breached its duty of care under the Work Health and Safety Act.

As a result, Qantas entered into an enforceable undertaking – a legally binding agreement often used as an alternative to court action – with WorkSafe ACT to improve its safety practices and policies.

Advertisement

Under the agreement the airline has agreed to six terms, outlined in a notice published on Friday, including the purchase of new "fall from heights" infrastructure for the ACT.

Part of the agreement is a $70,000 donation to the Snowy Hydro Southcare rescue helicopter.

The company will also develop an injury and hazard reporting app, standardise workplace induction processes across the group and complete a university research project related to contractor safety management.

ACT WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe welcomed the company's decision to accept the agreement and its response to the accident.

"The great thing about Qantas agreeing to enter into this enforceable undertaking is that rather than go through lengthy court action, they're investing a fair bit of money into health and safety and that's a far better outcome than spending it on lawyers, which is where quite a bit of the money goes."

Mr McCabe said the changes Qantas had agreed to implement covered three key aspects of enforceable undertakings, which meant the improvements had to include benefits for the airline's workers, the aviation industry as a whole and the broader community.

"We think this is an excellent example of a good corporate citizen. Yes, a person was injured but they have improved health and safety and are doing something for the broader community."

A Qantas spokeswoman said the airline put numerous safety measures in place immediately after the man was injured to ensure a similar incident didn't happen again.

It had worked with WorkSafe ACT to develop the additional safety improvements.

"At Qantas, safety is always our first priority and we are committed to ensuring that our workplaces are safe at all times."

Mr McCabe believed enforceable undertakings had been an under-used component of recently overhauled workplace health and safety laws but workplaces were increasingly seeing the benefits.

"A number of employers are getting on the front foot and turning bad accidents into a positive thing for the community," he said.