OHS Obligations

Managing your OHS obligations is a continual and complicated task. You must provide a safe work environment and manage your employees and visitors. As a foundation, you need to have in place robust safety systems, procedures, job safety analyses, and risk assessments. Using those systems, you need to assess, mitigate and control risks that may impact OHS.

Also, you must train your employees in safe work practices and maintain records of ongoing competence.

For this article, we take a look at the responsibilities of employers and what they need to do to meet their OHS obligations.

Who is Responsible for OHS?

In short everyone. As an employer, Safe Work Australia categorises people working within a business as:

  • The Person Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBU)
  • Officers
  • Workers
  • Other persons at the workplace

See our article, Your WHS Frequently Asked Questions Answered.

What Are the Employer’s OHS Obligations?

In Australia, the WHS Act 2011 outlines the employer’s OHS responsibility. The Act describes employers in terms of the person running the business or PCBU. The Act discusses OHS obligations in terms of duty of care.

As far as is reasonably practicable, the primary duty of care requires PCBU’s to provide a safe working environment, by eliminating risks to health and safety. To help you, the safety hierarchy of controls details hazard mitigation methods in six steps. The highest level of control for OHS hazards is eliminating the risk.

However, eliminating risks is not always practical and in doing so, may prevent a business from conducting work.  If removing the risk is not possible, then the PCBU must minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable. They must:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including safe access to and from the workplace
  • provide and maintain plant, structures and systems of work that are safe and do not pose health risks
  • safely use, handle, store and transport plant, structure and substances
  • provide adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at work
  • inform, instruct, train or supervise workers so they can work without risks to their health and safety and that of others around them
  • monitor the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace to prevent injury or illness arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking
  • maintain any accommodation owned or under their management to ensure the health and safety of workers occupying the premises.

Also, to meet their OHS obligations, employers must consult, cooperate and coordinate with their employees, and health and safety representatives on how to keep them and others safe at work.

See our article, Workplace Hazards and the Hierarchy of Controls.

What Do You Need to Do to Adhere to Industrial Manslaughter Laws?

The introduction of Industrial Manslaughter Laws in most states in Australia is increasing the risks associated with conducting business with many examining their processes, evidence of safe practice and insurance needs. Fortunately, there are eight steps you can take to help you to adhere to the Industrial Manslaughter legal requirements:

  1. Review all the potential hazards and risks (physical and psychological) in your workplace, and manage them within a risk management framework.
  2. Conduct a formal review of your safety systems and controls to ensure they are effective and a correct reflection of your processes.
  3. Review all your existing policies and ensure they are complete.
  4. Examine your health and safety leadership and culture for possible negligent practices.
  5. Ensure all company directors, senior officers and managers understand the implications of the legislation.
  6. Review your incident action plans and responses.
  7. Consider your business insurance arrangements.
  8. Train all employees in the safe practice of high-risk activities. Regularly refresh the training to ensure ongoing competence and keep detailed reports and records.

See our article, How to Adhere to Industrial Manslaughter Laws.

How Does Interactive Training Help You Meet Your OHS Obligations?

A critical area to meet your OHS obligations is training. Workplace learning processes need to involve learning not only to reproduce a work technique but also to develop a variety of strategies to cope with unforeseen or atypical situations. You should try to integrate learning about injury prevention strategies and safe work practices within your organisation’s context.

The Tap into Safety Platform offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training online and on smart devices. We focus on critical risk and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. The focus on critical risks and controls helps to meet your OHS obligations and adhere to Industrial Manslaughter laws.

The Platform has a comprehensive library of out-of-the-box training across a range of industry settings including courses on safe manual handling and working at height. If we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content. If you’d like to know more, please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.

See our article, Make Your Workplace Safety Training More Impactful.

Improve Worker Safety Knowledge

As part of your OHS obligations, you need to continually improve and verify the safety knowledge of your employees. When delivering training, you must also measure and monitor their safety knowledge retention.

How Can You Improve OHS Knowledge?

  1. Provide information via inductions, board briefings and training sessions.
  2. Keep an up-to-date risk register and ensure you provide access.
  3. Provide subscriptions to high-quality legal/professional/industry alert services.

How Can You Verify OHS Knowledge?

  1. Observe the level of engagement at inductions, briefings and training sessions.
  2. Assess knowledge, e.g. survey, performance review or evaluate contributions to risk assessments and OHS performance reviews etc.

What Processes and Systems Verify OHS Knowledge?

  1. Record the number of attendees and who attends safety inductions, briefings and training sessions.
  2. Ensure people with appropriate expertise deliver the training, or use reputable online training platforms.
  3. Ensure the risk register is up-to-date, e.g. review the schedule and assign accountability.

See our article, What is Your Business WHS Risk Profile?

To Conclude

In this article, we look at the responsibilities of employers and how they can meet their OHS obligations. Employers must provide a safe working environment, maintain that environment and all plant and structures, and develop policies, procedures, incident action plans and responses. Critically, they need to identify workplace hazards and health risks and use the highest level of control measures to reduce the threat of injury or disease that is practicable.

Employers must supervise and train their workers and monitor their health and well-being.  Also, they need to keep up-to-date training records and assess knowledge retention.

It’s a big job and one that continues daily across all businesses that are making efforts to meet their OHS obligations and keep their employees safe and well.

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