What Are Your Workplace Health and Safety Obligations?

workplace health and safety obligations

Managing your workplace health and safety obligations is a complicated job. You are required to assess, mitigate and control risks that may impact the health, safety or welfare of those working in and visiting with your workplace. Work health and safety systems, procedures, job safety analyses, risk assessments and training all have a role.

For this article, we take a look at the responsibility of both employers and employees, managing hazards, and the critical role of training.

What is the Employer’s Responsibility?

SafeWork Australia clearly outlines the responsibility of the employer through the Model WHS Act. They describe the PCBU which is the employer as the person running the business, whether alone or in a team. The Act discusses workplace health and safety obligations in terms of duty of care.

This primary duty of care requires PCBU’s to provide a safe working environment, so far as is reasonably practicable, by eliminating risks to health and safety. If eliminating risks is not possible, then minimising risks so far as is reasonably practicable, is required. They must ensure:

  • the provision and maintenance of a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including safe access to and from the workplace
  • the provision and maintenance of plant, structure and systems of work that are safe and do not pose health risks (for example providing effective guards on machines and regulating the pace and frequency of work)
  • the safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant, structure and substances (for example toxic chemicals, dust and fibres)
  • the provision of adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at work (for instance access to washrooms, lockers and dining areas)
  • the provision of information, instruction, training or supervision to workers needed for them to work without risks to their health and safety and that of others around them
  • that the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace are monitored to prevent injury or illness arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking
  • the maintenance of any accommodation owned or under their management to ensure the health and safety of workers occupying the premises.

See our courses, Health & Safety Fundamentals and Health & Wellbeing Fundamentals.

Consult, Cooperate and Coordinate to Meet Your Workplace Health and Safety Obligations

Employers must consult, cooperate and coordinate with workers, and health and safety representatives. They must provide information about the risks in the workplace and how to remain safe and protected. Employers must also instruct and train workers on how to safely deal with these risks. There are serious legal ramifications, should the employer fail in their workplace health and safety obligations. They may be found to be negligent by providing an unsafe working environment.

See our article on Your WHS Frequently Asked Asked Questions Answered.

What is the Responsibility of the Employee?

Employees, on the other hand, are required to comply with safety requirements at work and take all reasonable precautions to keep safe. They must also:

  • comply, so far as they are reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction given by the PCBU to allow the PCBU to comply with WHS laws, and
  • cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure of the PCBU relating to health or safety at the workplace.

An employee’s responsibility includes paying attention to training and induction processes, safety systems, and documents, so they are aware of the proper procedures to safely carry out their duties in the workplace. Should employees fail to meet their workplace health and safety obligations and it results in them, or a co-worker becoming injured, they may be found to be legally responsible.

See our article on Key Work Health and Safety Messages.

See our course Health and Safety Fundamentals For Employees.

4 Steps to Managing Hazards and Risks

To achieve a safe work environment and to manage your workplace health and safety obligations, you must identify, control and rectify all hazards and risks. There are four steps you can take:

  1. Consult – Employers must consult with employees when identifying and assessing hazards or risks, and should discuss with them when making decisions about how to deal with them.
  2. Find – In consultation with your employees, analyse all tasks in your workplace to determine the potential hazards. It’s a good idea to write everything down and to research a history of hazards within your industry, so you know what to avoid. Discussing risks and hazards with other people in your industry and sharing experiences can also prove beneficial. Try going through the past injury records as they may highlight if any problem areas exist or if any patterns are emerging.
  3. Fix –Once you identify and assess the hazards in your workplace, any problems need to be fixed immediately and as thoroughly as possible.
  4. Review – Controlling risks to meet workplace health and safety obligations is a continuous process that needs to take into account any changes in the workplace. For this reason, procedures and risk controls should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are working well and remain relevant.

See our article, Can Employees Recognise, Recall and Report Workplace Hazards.

When Should Employer’s Notify the Regulator?

You must immediately notify the regulator of any dangerous incident that exposes a person to a serious health or safety risk. Notify if employees have immediate or imminent exposure to:

  • the uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance
  • an uncontrolled implosion, explosion or fire
  • an uncontrolled escape of gas, steam or a pressurised substance
  • an electric shock
  • the fall or release from height of any plant, substance or thing
  • the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, plant that is required to be licensed or registered
  • the collapse or partial collapse of a structure, including excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation
  • the inrush of water, mud or gas into an underground excavation or tunnel
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation to an underground excavation or tunnel
  • other incidents, as stated in the WHS Regulations.

Notice of an incident must be given by the fastest possible means, by telephone or in writing. Keep a record of each notifiable incident for at least five years.

The Important Role of the Supervisor

Supervision in the workplace is an essential component to meet your workplace health and safety obligations. Supervisors oversee workers and monitor procedures to ensure everything is running safely. To adequately supervise workers, the supervisor needs to be competent and well trained. Supervisors should:

  • be familiar with the worker’s skill sets, qualifications and abilities
  • know the company’s procedures as well as the WHS legislation
  • be competent in giving directions and in adopting an authoritative position.

See our article, Can Construction Supervisors Recognise Workplace Hazards?

See our course, The Role of the Supervisor.

How Can Training Help You to Meet Your Workplace Health and Safety Obligations?

You must provide training to meet your workplace health and safety obligations. The goal of all training is to improve knowledge retention to change behaviour. Most companies conduct safety inductions, toolbox meetings and safety talks.

Many provide additional training in high-risk activities, emergency response, first aid and manual handling. One of the main aims of providing safety training is to upskill staff to perform their duties more efficiently and safely. To ensure that they do not endanger themselves or others.

The Tap into Safety Platform provides online interactive training using virtual environments, gamification and animated videos. You can include it in your company’s safety induction or ongoing safety training regimes. Our training helps you to meet your workplace health and safety obligations.

We have a considerable library of ‘out-of-the-box’ microlearning courses for high-risk industries including, construction, civil construction, mining, warehousing, transport, energy, offices and service providers.

The difference that we offer is we build our training modules around the context of a specific industry setting. The reporting package within the training platform provides a detailed analysis that shows employee hazard knowledge and indicates where to focus your next training efforts.

Contact us today to get started.

To Conclude

As an employer, you are required to assess, mitigate and control risks that may impact the health, safety or welfare of those working in and visiting with your workplace. In this article, we provided information on employer and employee responsibilities to meet your workplace health and safety obligations. We examined the four steps to manage risks and workplace hazards and the critical role of the supervisor. Finally, we discussed how training is an essential component in managing workplace hazards.

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