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Franchisors’ workplace safety obligations.


A recent industrial decision in Inspector Estreich v Parker Hannifin (Australia) Pty Ltd should concern franchisors.

Parker Hannifin operates ‘The Hose Doctor’ franchise.   Each franchisee operates from a van which is branded and outfitted at its own expense. The van is customised as a mobile service centre.  Industrial gases and other hazardous goods are kept in the vans.   One such vehicle exploded spectacularly .The franchisee was wounded.  The explosion was caused by gas leaking from an acetylene bottle in the rear of the vehicle.  The vehicle was not ventilated in the way recommended by the Australian Standard.

The franchisor pleaded guilty to a breach of section 10 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (NSW).

It was fined $110,000.  It had control of ‘premises’ (i.e. the mobile service centre inside the franchisee’s vehicle) but failed to ensure that it was safe. The van was used as a “place of work”. The franchisor had a well developed health and safety system for its employees, but wrongly assumed it was not required to ensure the safety of franchisees.  Even though the franchisee had actual day-to-day possession of the van, the franchisor had sufficient control over how franchisees conducted their business that it could have ensured that the vehicle was properly ventilated.

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