Resources: Blog

Negligent host employer ordered to pay damages to injured labour-hire worker


Care and control

A recent decision from the District Court of New South Wales has highlighted the importance of a host employer’s duty of care to any labour-hire worker it engages where the work directions and conditions are within the host employer’s knowledge and control.

A recent decision from the District Court of New South Wales has highlighted the importance of a host employer’s duty of care to any labour-hire worker it engages where the work directions and conditions are within the host employer’s knowledge and control.

In Castillo v Premist Framework Contractors Pty Ltd [2019] NSWC DC 6, a labour-hire worker successfully established that a host employer’s negligence caused him to sustain an injury to his left knee.

The labour-hire worker was engaged by the host employer (through the labour-hire worker’s actual employer) to erect plywood formwork for an elevator shaft ahead of a scheduled concrete pour the next day. The plywood sheets being used for the task had been saturated due to exposure to rainwater and ranged in weight from 20 kilograms to 40 kilograms. The labour-hire worker was required to manipulate and secure the heavy plywood sheets inside a part of the elevator shaft, whilst standing on scaffolding that was approximately one-metre off the ground.

The labour-hire worker had asked the host employer for better lighting in the location he was directed to work and for assistance with the heavy plywood required for the task. The host employer failed to accommodate either of these requests.

In the course of completing the work, the labour-hire worker was attempting to manoeuvre a sheet of the plywood when he lost his balance and fell, hitting his head, backside, left leg and left knee inside the elevator shaft.

The labour-hire worker felt ongoing pain in his left leg and left knee as the result of a complex tear of the medial meniscus sustained as a result of the fall.

In its defence, the host-employer argued that the labour-hire worker was contributorily negligent and contributed to his own injury because he didn’t have regard for his own safety, he had failed to observe his surroundings and failed to exercise the necessary degree of caution in the circumstances.

The Court rejected this argument, noting,

At best, if the plaintiff was negligent, which I do not accept, it was a casual act in compliance with a work directive in a flawed work system not of his making and not under his control. (at para. [102])

The host employer also claimed that any damages it was ordered to pay to the labour-hire worker should be reduced because the labour-hire worker’s actual employer should be jointly liable.

The Court rejected this argument too on the basis that the labour-hire worker was assigned to carry out work under the supervision of the host employer’s foreman in an environment with conditions known to the host-employer but not to the actual employer. The Court noted that the dynamic nature of the risks to the labour-hire worker were “within the particular knowledge” of the host employer and arose on an ad hoc basis.

The Court award the labour-hire worker a total of $138,515.06 in damages plus costs.

Lessons for employers

Employers that utilise labour-hire workers must be alive to their duty of care to those workers.

A host employer is often the party responsible for the day-to-day allocation of tasks and supervision of a labour-hire worker and is usually the party in control of the environment and conditions in which the labour-hire worker performs work.

Despite not being the worker’s actual employer, a host employer still has obligations to a labour-hire worker, including a duty of care to provide a safe working environment.


Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Similar articles

Company vicariously liable for injury resulting from skylarking supervisor

All in good fun

Enjoying the company of your colleagues is something most people hope to find in the workplace. It can make work much more enjoyable and lead to lasting friendships. However, fun in the workplace can cross a line when it takes the form of dangerous skylarking or roughhousing.


Brisbane company first to be convicted of industrial manslaughter

Brisbane company first to be convicted of industrial manslaughter

Workplace fatalities are tragic and devastating events. In order to reflect the seriousness of these incidents, some jurisdictions across Australia have amended their work health and safety laws to establish the offence of industrial manslaughter, where the negligent conduct by a person conducting a business or undertaking or officers causes the death of a worker.


Workplace Relations Review

Cases and Legislation June 2020

Cases and Legislation June 2020 NEWS ALERTS NSW Work Health Safety Legislation Amendments The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) (WHS Act) was recently amended giving effect to some of the recommendations of the 2018 national review of the modern WHS Act. ...


Fair Work Commission accepts that role with additional travel time was acceptable redeployment employment

The daily commute

Employers have long known that they are obliged to try to find new employment opportunities for employees who are faced with the redundancy of their current role.


FWC upholds objection to constructive dismissal claim

Construction zone

In order to access the unfair dismissal jurisdiction, an employee must be “dismissed” from their employment by the employer. One of the instances in which an employee may be “dismissed” from their employment is if they were forced to resign because of the employer’s conduct or course of conduct.


Court penalises accountant for involvement in employer’s failure to keep employee records

Put your records on

The Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth) impose a number of obligations on employers with respect to the making and keeping of employee records and pay slips.


Let's talk

please contact our directors to discuss how ouR expertise can help your business.

We're here to help

Contact Us
Let Workplace Law become your partner in Workplace Relations.

Signup to receive the latest industry updates with commentary from the Workplace Law team direct to you inbox.