What is an EU?

A mentor program, educational scholarships, best-practice due-diligence and workplace safety programs are some of the great outcomes of an enforceable undertaking completed recently.

Enforceable undertakings, or EUs as they are commonly known, are ‘the magical creatures of work health and safety law’, says Andrew Ball, a partner at global law firm DLA Piper.

EUs began in NSW in 2012 and, not surprisingly, interest in them is ‘skyrocketing’ – they offer businesses an alternative to prosecutions and fines when a serious incident occurs at their workplace.

An EU is a commitment that the behaviour that led to the alleged breach of the work health and safety laws has ceased and will not reoccur.

Invariably, successful EUs are creative and innovative; engage with the workplace, industry and community; bring about lasting changes that increase awareness of the importance of safety; and reduce the risk of harm in the future.

In 2013, a worker was injured while attempting to realign a roller on a conveyor belt approximately three metres above the ground, when he stepped out from the elevated work platform onto a waste bin and fell to the concrete floor. The incident was a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

In lieu of prosecution action, an EU was accepted by the employer, SUEZ. With an estimated cost of $200,000, highlights of the undertaking included a mentoring program between SUEZ and a contracting business, where knowledge and expertise in relation to health and safety were shared and an ongoing mentoring relationship was established.

A scholarship for a 10-week work placement was also negotiated with Newcastle University and led to full time employment for the student, along with a commitment from SUEZ for future student work placement opportunities.

SUEZ also developed a ‘Life Saving Rules’ program for its workers and enhanced its due diligence program to reinforce safety leadership within the organisation.

‘We made a conscious decision to learn from the experience and not take the easy way out,’ said Margaret Andrews, the company’s General Manager, Environment, Quality and Safety.

‘The initiatives were concrete, meaningful and challenging and have been a cornerstone to drive improvement in our safety performance.’

Find out more about enforceable undertakings.

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