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Do you know your health and safety obligations?

Do you know your health and safety obligations? (Last Updated On: October 7, 2016)

National Safe Work Month is an initiative that aims to raise awareness of and encourage discussion about health and safety at work.

In recognition of National Safe Work Month, which is held in October each year, this month’s edition of The Bottom Line looks at some of the key health and safety obligations of employers and what you can do to address these obligations.

What do employers need to do in relation to health and safety?

Employers have a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others in the workplace. This includes ensuring that:

  • the working environment, machinery and equipment are safe and maintained
  • training, supervision, instruction and information are provided
  • adequate facilities are available

What is ‘reasonably practicable’ varies from business to business, and a one size fits all approach does not work. It is also important to remember what is ‘reasonably practicable’ for a particular business will change over time. As a result, it is important to monitor and review health and safety throughout your business on an ongoing basis.

Think broadly.

When considering the what, when and how of your health and safety obligations, it is important to think broadly, as health and safety concerns are not limited to workplaces with an obvious risk of physical injury to employees.

Who needs to be considered when thinking about health and safety obligations?

The obligation to ensure health and safety extends beyond employees. Other people that need to be considered in relation to health and safety are contractors, sub-contractors, employees of labour hire companies, trainees, apprentices and even unpaid workers such as work experience students and volunteers.

What is a workplace?

What is considered to be a workplace for health and safety purposes is broader than just the principal place of business. For example, the workplace may also include a car or boat in which workers are travelling or carrying out work or a worker’s home if they are performing work duties from home. For this reason, it is important to consider the health and safety of all of the places in which workers perform work, not just the main site, head office or principal place of business.

Not just physical injuries.

Physical injury is not the only type of injury that the health and safety regimes are concerned with. Health includes both physical and psychological health and any risks to psychological health that arise from work need to be managed appropriately. The psychological health of workers can be negatively impacted by exposure to bullying or harassment, a traumatic event, workplace violence or even excessive or prolonged work pressures.

For example, in a recent case in Victoria, an employer was found to have breached their duty to an employee by failing to put in place measures to stop him from working excessive hours, regardless of numerous complaints from the employee about his excessive hours and the employee’s eventual collapse at work (caused by exhaustion). This case demonstrates the importance of considering risks to psychological health when addressing your health and safety obligations.

What about workers? Do they have any responsibilities in relation to health and safety at work?

In short, yes, workers have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others. Workers must also comply with reasonable instructions and the policies and procedures of the workplace.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist we can assist with your health and safety management system, and help identify potential areas for improvement. If you have any questions relating to health and safety, and your obligations as an employer, call us today on 1300 651 415.

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