Work Injuries Under Common Law

The Queensland Industrial Relations Act 1999 (QIRC) provides that employers are liable for injuries suffered by employees in the course of their employment, an employer has a duty to provide a safe workplace and equipment which is inspected before use. The doctrine of common law liability for negligence extends to all persons who are insufficiently qualified to use or handle tools or equipment. The law presumes that employers have taken reasonable care to prevent injury occurring as the result of its activities. An employer is not negligent if it can establish that it took all reasonable precautions, or where there is no evidence to suggest negligence. An employee may be found contributorily negligent for his or her own accident if he or she knew about, but disregarded, any risk involved


The Act is a law which confers on employees’ rights, powers and responsibilities as set out in the common law. This section sets out the general principles of the Act. 2: The Government’s Responsibility under the Act in the exercise of its common law powers under the Act, the Queensland Government is responsible for the maintenance of a safe and suitable workplace. Section 9(2) of the QIRC Act provides that, subject to a limitation that the common law rights and powers conferred upon an employer by the Industrial Relations Act 1999 will not extend to one who has not been engaged as an employee and who is: (a) appointed to undertake any function of a person in employment; and (b) connected to an employer by way of contracts, franchises, shares, assignments or any other relationships.

Work Injuries under common law

Employers are responsible for all work-related injuries and illnesses, including, but not limited to, fatal accidents, (such as falls, slips, and trips), workplace accidents, injury caused by fatigue, dangerous work and assaults.  Although an employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace is determined based on a balance of probabilities, strict liability exists, meaning there is no duty to ensure the safety of the workplace. However, the employer is presumed to have taken all reasonable precautions to prevent the accident from occurring.  Consequently, if an employee is injured as a result of an employer’s activities and the employer can be held liable for their damages.

Duty of care to provide a safe workplace and equipment

Employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace and equipment to provide a safe workplace and equipment is a general duty. It is an objective duty, not one of correctness or propriety, a subjective duty, not one of truth or of justice, which exists independently of the will of the employer and may be modified in any way or may be severed. The employee’s duty of care extends to all the tools and equipment employed at the workplace.  The practical consequence of this is that an employer has a legal duty to provide safe workplaces and equipment at the workplace. That includes, but is not limited to, the organisation’s vehicles, equipment and tools and its buildings, premises, plant and equipment.

Contributory negligence by the employee

A person is contributory, or liable, if the person’s negligence causes the harm: Provided that the employee cannot be made liable for an accident that is caused by a person who in consequence of the latter’s negligence:  gives him or her reason to believe that he or she is exposed to a risk or peril of serious harm  gives him or her reason to believe that such danger is present or likely to exist, even though there is no evidence that he or she took any measures or precautions to protect himself or herself from it  gives him or her reason to believe that the danger was present and existing even though it was not in fact present or existing  Due to the differences in the law in other states and territories, here is a summary of the laws in each jurisdiction.


Labour injuries can be devastating. While employer liability is highly prevalent in most States, each State still has its own laws governing employer liability and Work Health and Safety laws which apply to employers, employees and trade unions.  Keep up to date with new laws and regulations, share the relevant information with your team and ensure they are aware of your responsibilities.

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