The Essendon saga is slowly coming to an end after a lengthy investigation into the football club’s use of banned substances. Along with the World Anti-Doping Association’s successful appeal against the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision, the club also awaits sentencing following WorkSafe Victoria’s investigation. WorkSafe Victoria charged the Essendon club with providing an unsafe workplace for the players. Although you may not usually think of football players as employees, the Essendon players’ employers owe both statutory and implied duties to the players. Below, we look at how the battered football club fell short of its workplace health and safety obligations.  

AFL and WorkSafe Health and Safety

WorkSafe Victoria only recently charged the club in November 2015, alleging that by providing the supplements to the players, the club put the players at risk and did not take steps to reduce those risks. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) sets out the obligations and duties placed on employers in Victoria, including providing a safe working environment and ensuring that businesses reduce risks by, for example, providing safety equipment. WorkSafe Victoria is set to sentence the club on 28th of January 2016, and the club could face up to $305,350 in fines for the two charges.

The World Anti-Doping Association Appeal Successful

The World Anti-Doping Association’s appeal against the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision was recently upheld. This means that the 34 players involved (both current and some former players) each receive a 2-year back-dated suspension that now ends at the end of 2016. Players involved will not be able to play in any games in the 2016 AFL season due to the dates of the ban.

Originally the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal held in March 2015 that the “Tribunal is not comfortably satisfied that any player violated clause 11.2 of the AFL Anti-Doping Code.” However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that they were “satisfied” the players had breached clause 11.2 of the Anti-Doping Code and so upheld the appeal.

The ramifications of the decision include that the players may sue the club moving forward. The players and the club were also ordered to pay fines and legal fees as a part of the decision. This is likely to lead to some serious financial issues for the club in the future.

Key Takeaways

Victoria’s employers should be aware of the workplace health and safety regulations you are required to comply with. If you have questions about your workplace and whether you are meeting your obligations as an employer, you should speak with an employment lawyer.

Employers should also note that all Australian states and territories, except Western Australia and Victoria, have adopted the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. As such, you should understand how this legislation affects your business, particularly if you are operating in another state.

Questions about your business’ Workplace Health and Safety policies? Get in touch.

Edith Moss

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