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Workplace Health and Safety inspections on the rise

Workplace Health and Safety inspections on the rise (Last Updated On: October 30, 2014)

Did you know WorkCover have increased its random inspections in NSW by 55%? A new Safe Work Australia report has found that health and safety regulators recently conducted 135,000 random workplace visits which resulted in them handing out nearly 47,000 notices and $14.5 million in fines.

You may think that these numbers are nothing to worry about if your business has been free of incidents recently. The bad news is it’s no time to relax: the introduction of the Work Health and Safety legislation on 1 January 2012 means that people identified as “officers” of a business have legal obligations in regards to workplace health and safety – and you can’t delegate these duties to a third party or another member of staff.

Workplace audits are designed to ensure that these duties are carried out and you can be at risk of a fine of up to $600,000 or a 5 year jail term if you fail to comply.

Am I an officer?

An officer is someone who can make decisions that significantly affects a business or undertaking. Under Section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001, an officer can be:

  • a director or secretary of a company;
  • a person who makes or participates in making decisions which affect the whole, or substantial part of the business;
  • You have the capacity to affect significantly the financial standing of the business;
  • A person in accordance with whose instructions or wishes the directors of the corporation are accustomed to act; or
  • You are a trustee or other person administering a compromise or arrangement with someone else.

An officer can also be a board member, managing director or senior manager.

I’m an officer under Work Health and Safety Act. What will I need to do?

You will need to prove that you are being proactive and have carried out your legal obligations if asked by a health and safety regulator. Section 27 of the Work Health and Safety Act  lists an officer’s legal obligations as follows:

  • To learn and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters;
  • Understand the operations of your business and the hazards and risks involved;
  • To ensure appropriate resources and processes are provided to enable hazards to be identified and risks to be eliminated or minimised;
  • To ensure information regarding incidents, hazards and risks is received and the information is responded to in a timely way;
  • To ensure the Person Conducting the Business or Undertaking (PCBU) has, and implements, processes for complying with any legal duty or obligation; and
  • To regularly review and verify the processes put in place are working.

The question to ask yourself is: are you doing all you can to comply with WHS laws?

If you’re worried about your duties as an officer or if you need WHS advice, contact us. Employsure recently launched a new Health and Safety service to all of our NSW and ACT clients.

Call 1300 020 792 today for more information.

By Tony Lawrence, Head of Health and Safety

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