Rules for outback work travel may catch some out


“Going bush” is a major part of many jobs in The Centre and NT Work Safe has requirements that may catch some employers unprepared.
The issue came into focus when a health worker, Ming Lai, was sent on long a trip to en extremely remote area without – as she claimed – adequate equipment and training.
WorkSafe, when asked to comment, did not name the firm employing Ms Lai but the Alice Springs News understands it involves that company.
The regulator says it does not necessarily prosecute but currently there are two matters are before the NT courts, including one involving a road train driver in Central Australia allegedly not adequately trained.
WorkSafe says the Act under which it operates is performance based, not prescriptive.

Companies, workers and other participants are obliged to assess and identify hazards in the workplace, and if they can’t eliminate them, put in place control measures.


They, not WorkSafe, have the duty to manage the health and safety risks.


In extreme cases a Judge would determine whether measures were adequate to achieve the result of providing the safest possible workplace.

NT WorkSafe says it “can confirm that a complaint was received on April 29 concerning a worker not receiving appropriate training in the use of vehicles and equipment before they were sent out for remote and isolated work.
“The worker also complained their employment had been terminated.
“Since [an] interaction with WorkSafe Inspectors, the business has reviewed its policy and procedures, and implemented procedures for remote and isolated work.
“The worker was referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman who has jurisdiction to enquire into the workers termination.”
The WorkSafe rules include comprehensive instructions about remote travel.

They say provision of and training in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) may be appropriate.


Both business and staff must assess the needs for particular work activities and ensure that workers are trained in the use of any required PPE.


Businesses and workers should make sure that  PPEs comply with Australian Standards; are suitable for the intended purpose; are in good condition, and have been adequately maintained.


Planning of any field trip should ensure that a risk assessment is conducted including considering the purpose of travel; size and composition of the field party; personnel required to travel; general health of the field party; first aid officers and first aid resources; emergency preparedness and emergency response strategy plus amount and weight of equipment required.


People heading into remote areas should be examined as to “their physical and psychological health and the possible effect on that individual of fatigue, and any other personal and/or family matters that may influence or affect them”.


Companies should conduct “a thorough medical assessment, on appointment and before commencement of work, giving particular attention to any relevant pre-existing health conditions,” for example, insulin-dependent diabetes, epilepsy; they should consider annual check-ups for workers regularly engaged in remote or isolated work and conduct risk assessments before commencement of all remote or isolated work.


The WorkSafe guide suggests “psychological assessment can assist … to identify potentially unsuitable candidates while maximising recruitment and placement of suitable individuals; increase safety for individuals and others through the identification of vulnerabilities that may put personnel at risk when conducting remote or isolated work activities; and facilitate early intervention.

“It is highly recommended that workers who are required to drive regularly as part of their duties attend four-wheel drive, defensive driving and/or advanced driving courses.

“Additional training should be considered where workers are required to tow trailers or caravans. A combination of driver training and first aid training is recommended.”


Further considerations could include trip planning and trip schedules; vehicle fit-out; pre-departure checks and check-in procedures.

PHOTO Outback Guide.


  1. A woman I knew back in the 1980s or 90s was required to drive a Landcruiser out bush alone without the knowledge or capability to change a wheel if she had a flat. Luckily it never happened.

  2. This is a great result to see the regulator stepping up and putting businesses on notice that they cannot send workers out bush without taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their workers.
    One would hope they change their mind about letting Fair Work deal with the worker’s dismissal as there are certainly laws under the OH and S legislation that can punish firms that sack a worker for raising a safety concern. The NT has an atrocious record and it’s about time that a proactive approach was done.


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