It is a legal requirement in Australia that employers provide a safe premises for both workers and visitors. The 1985 OHS Act was implemented to ensure the safety of workers at their jobs, and the updated 2004 OHS Act was amended to extend the term ‘health’ to include psychological issues such as stress and workplace bullying. An employer has several responsibilities to ensure the safety of their workers and visitors. This article will examine the duties of the employer in maintaining a safe workplace.
The first thing an employer must do is ensure that they maintain safe facilities. This means that equipment and machinery are safe to use, and that there are adequate safety measures in place to protect both employees and visitors. This could include signage or emergency equipment. Furthermore, employers must have a safe handling policy in place for any harmful or dangerous materials that may be dealt with.
Facilities such as clean toilets, kitchens, and drinking water is also a requirement. Training and instruction of employees is another area that must be taken seriously. This is so as to ensure that staff are aware of how to operate equipment and keep themselves safe in the workplace.
Health and safety
In addition to providing a safe working environment, employers are also required to monitor the health of their workers. This could be in the form of regular hearing tests for those who are exposed to loud machinery, or checking fatigue in workers who are constantly on the road (e.g. truck drivers). Maintaining records of this information is also required to show that check ups have been done and to aid with any medical queries that may arise in the future.
A large part of what makes up Occupational Health and Safety is support. For this reason, employers should hire qualified people who can advise on safety issues in the workplace, and appoint a health and safety representative that employees can turn to with questions. A member of senior management should also be appointed to handle complaints of workers and their representatives.
When hiring an employee, the employer must convey the nature of the work and ask if the candidate has any injuries that may be affected by the role. This needs to occur in writing. It must also be stated that, should an employee fail to disclose a previous injury, future compensation claims will be deemed ineligible.
In relation to workcover claims, employers must ensure that they have WorkSafe injury insurance, and advertise to employees the process required to report any injuries. In the event of an injury, the employer must maintain the register and always comply with WorkSafe inspectors where necessary.
Following an injury, employers must implement a return to work plan for the affected employee with the assistance of a return to work coordinator. Heavy penalties can be incurred if employees are found to be not following protocol.
As mentioned earlier, safety precautions do not only apply solely to employees, but also to any visitors and even the general public. Adequate safety measures must be in place to protect anyone exposed to the premises.
Administrative tasks such as licensing, registration, and certification are also the employer’s responsibility to ensure that they are always compliant with the law. Penalties for breaching regulations can exceed $1 million.
The 2004 Act should be referred to for specific detail into an employer’s responsibilities, but the issue of workplace safety is one of critical importance. The penalties vary for different types of breaches, but they are all large enough to have a significant impact, and no employer should ever be in a situation where they might be breaching workplace safety regulations. Employees have every right to file a claim against their employer for unsafe practices and injury.