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Are you at risk of a Category One Work Health Safety Charge?

Published April 03, 2018 -

Across all states and territories, the calls for greater accountability of employers in relation to workplace injuries has increasingly been getting louder. Governments, Courts and Tribunals have heard this call and sent a message to employers nationwide. The warning is clear – if you hurt someone at work – you will pay.

Queensland is leading the charge on these issues. They have created the offense of industrial manslaughter, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison for an individual, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender. The Queensland Government will push for these laws to go national later this year during the ongoing review of the model work health and safety laws.

Whilst this is the most extreme example, other states are paying close attention, with many parties expressing support for these changes.

The government’s push for accountability has resulted in increased prosecutions of work, health and safety matters generally.

Recently, there has been a flood of decisions, which hold businesses accountable. A significant example is the first successful category one prosecution in New South Wales, which resulted in a fine of $900,000.00 plus costs. This case has set a benchmark regarding what constitutes “reckless” conduct by businesses and establishes a framework of how to quantify penalties moving forward. This decision is a timely reminder of the consequences following a workplace incident.

In light of this push, employers and individuals with health and safety responsibilities must ensure the health and safety of workers by taking steps to eliminate or minimise risks in the workplace, where reasonably practicable.

Employsure deals with work, health and safety matters on a daily basis.

Our top tips to ensure you remain compliant:

  • Review business and operational structure to determine who is responsible for what.
  • Make sure that each individual and group is aware of their WHS responsibilities.
  • Review your policies, procedures and consultation processes to ensure they are easily understandable and in line with legislative requirements.
  • Ensure up to date policies and procedures are communicated to staff regularly, and make sure they are understood.
  • Consult, consult, consult! Do not forget that consultation is a legal requirement and an essential part of managing health and safety risks. Communication is the key to creating a safe workplace. Take the time to talk safety – input from workers through a meeting or ‘toolbox talk’ is a great way to identify issues and encourage participation.
  • Be proactive – carry out regular safety checks and encourage a safety culture.
  • Ensure that your policies are under continuous improvement and review processes. Doing this makes it easier to ensure ongoing compliance.
  • Document systems, processes and corrective actions taken – this will assist you in the event of a claim / prosecution.

Finally, if you are unsure of anything, seek advice. These matters are tricky and considering the potential liability for getting it wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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