Worksafe Guidelines Ill-Informed

Peter Mericka B.A., LL.BOPINION
by Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B
Real Estate Consumer Advocate
Real Estate Lawyer
Qualified Practising Conveyancer Victoria
Director Lawyers Real Estate Pty Ltd
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Surely, the first rule of risk management is to avoid unnecessary risks. It has never been necessary for Estate agents to act as “escorts” or “security guards” or “crowd controllers“.

According the latest posting on the website of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV):

The REIV is welcoming the release of WorkSafe “Real Estate Agent Out-of-Office Safety” guidelines.

REIV CEO Enzo Raimondo said that since the death last year of Melton Real Estate Agent Lorelle Makin we have been working with Worksafe on the development of guidelines to assist real estate agents.

“While workplace deaths are a very rare occurance for estate agents one death or injury is one to many and we must do whatever we can to prevent it.

“We know that the risk to agents primarily arises from the fact that they often have to work alone.

“The guidelines that we have developed in conjunction with Worksafe will help agents to minimise the risks to their safety.

The guidelines establish a number of sensible and easy to implement procedurers such as:

  • Ensuring procedures are in place when conducting individual tours of properties, such as maintaining regular phone contact with the office and establishing a persons bonafides.
  • Limit the amount of personal information that is made available about agents.
  • Checking properties for hazards which may result in injuries.
  • Reporting all incidents.

“Under the OHS Act, the employer has a responsibility to provide a working environment for employees that is safe and without risk to health, as far as reasonably practicable and these guidelines will improve our member’s ability to do that. “The REIV will work with the more than 7000 agents and the agencies they work in to ensure that they understand and implement these guidelines.

“We want to make sure that all agents, sales people and property managers are provided with a safe working environment,” Mr Raimondo concluded.

New WorkSafe Real Estate Industry Guide

Surely, the first rule of risk management is determining whether the risk needs to be taken.

The REIV sounds like a politician reassuring voters that their soldier sons and daughters will be given every assistance as they enter a dangerous war zone, without addressing the real issue of whether there is a need to expose them to risk in the first place.

We submit that the first task of Worksafe should be to investigate why estate agencies require their staff to conduct escorted inspections at all.

We submit that the escorted inspection is entirely unnecessary, and that estate agencies expose their staff to risk for reasons that have more to do with agency promotion and the use of improper strategies than the delivery of a service to consumers.

Arguments advanced by the real estate industry in support of escorted inspections do not withstand scrutiny. The problem is that regulators simply don’t expose them to scrutiny.

We invite WorkSafe Victoria to thoroughly examine the concept of the escorted inspection, and to declare it an unacceptable risk.

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