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Health and safety – what are your obligations?

Health and safety – what are your obligations? (Last Updated On: February 6, 2015)

As the owner or manager of a business you have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all workers who could be affected by the hazards of your workplace.

Compliance with this obligation is not easy, and the obligation on you to ensure safety is high. At a minimum, you need to be:

  • providing and maintaining a safe work environment;
  • providing and maintaining safe equipment;
  • providing and maintaining safe systems of work;
  • ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of equipment and chemicals;
  • providing adequate facilities, including toilets, washing and eating facilities and first aid;
  • providing instruction, training, information and supervision as necessary; and
  • monitoring the health of workers and conditions at the workplace.

Further measures may also be necessary depending on the nature of your business and your industry.

It may surprise you to know that these obligations do not merely relate to your employees.

Under Work Health and Safety laws in operation throughout much of Australia, the obligation to ensure health and safety has been expanded to cover employees, labour hire staff, volunteers, work experience students, contractors and sub-contractors. In effect, it covers anyone who does any work for you.

Worker Duties

Health and safety is not just a one way street though.

Even if they don’t realise it, your workers also have health and safety obligations.

The duties for workers include:

  • taking reasonable care of their own safety at work;
  • taking reasonable care to ensure that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others;
  • complying with reasonable instructions from you to assist them in complying with the health and safety legislation; and
  • cooperating with policies or procedures relating to health and safety.

Contractors

When engaging contractors, you must ensure that your workplace and the workplace activities do not create a risk to this worker. In return, they must work safely and not create a risk to other workers.

If you are a business which has sub-contractor arrangements in place, you need to be aware that your work health and safety obligations extend to employees of sub-contractors, even though there may not be any direct contractual relationship between you and the sub-contractor.

For example, if you engage an air conditioning contractor to make repairs to the system in your office, you have a duty to ensure the health and safety of the contractor isn’t harmed by your work activities.

Complying with your obligations

As a business, it is crucial that you get this right. Key to this is the implementation of health and safety policies both at a management level (to ensure you are doing everything necessary to comply with your obligations) as well at a worker level (to ensure your workers are aware of and comply with their obligations).

For more information regarding your health and safety duties, contact Employsure on 1300 651 415 and ensure your company is protected against a WHS prosecution.

Melissa Shaw – Health and Safety Consultant 

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