Ensuring the safety of workers is one of the greatest responsibilities of an employer. It is an essential requirement that employers reduce the hazards employees are exposed and establish a basic standard adhering to the Work Health and Safety Act. This is by enforcing clear policies and safety procedures, providing proper work equipment, training employees on safety, and frequently reviewing these control measures. Ultimately, this will not only protect staff, however, it will boost productivity, reduce injuries and therefore, reduce the amount of worker’s compensation payable.
Work Health and Safety Act
In 2012, the Work Health and Safety Act came into effect with the purpose of updating and streamlining old workplace safety practices across Australia. This change significantly broadened the scope of an employer’s responsibilities and now require protective measures that are ‘reasonably practicable’ to provide employees with the highest level of protection. Therefore, a person operating a business must look to the legislation as it will set out their legal obligation and provide advice as to how to implement WHS policies into their workplace.
Duties for Employees
Employees also carry certain duties under the Act and work hand in hand with the responsibilities of the employer. Employees must ensure that they take reasonable care of themselves and monitor their health, surrounding and risks in their workplace. Additionally, they must conduct their work without exposing their peers to any hazards and be aware of the safety of other people in the workplace. Most important, to effect the control measures put in place by employers and the WHS legislation, it is essential that employees follow all instructions, policies and procedures related to work health and safety.
Important Steps to Ensure Compliance
There are several simple steps that an employer can undertake to ensure that their workplace is complying with work health and safety regulations.
Identify Who Will Overview WHS
The Work Health and Safety Act generally places the duty of care upon the employer conducting a business to ensure their business is adhering to the WHS regulations. However, they can still have other individuals to overview WHS practices although this will not absolve employer’s do their duty. This will typically be the role of Work Health and Safety Officers who will be responsible for identifying hazards and implementing strategies to reduce risks to safety.
Review Current Policies
As mentioned before, the current Work Health and Safety Act replaced individual state and territory workplace safety systems and introduced several new regulations to the employer’s responsibilities. Therefore, may benefit a business to ensure that they are up to date. A business should make sure that their policies include all the WHS regulation changes, and they should continue looking out for any future legislative changes.
Additionally, it is important to frequently review and update WHS policies following from WHS complaints made by employees or following from new and unexpected incidents in the workplace that were not covered by the existing policy.
Some workplaces change in form and in structure therefore, it is necessary to review and update WHS policies to best protect employees in any new workplace conditions.
Review Stakeholder Relationships
One of the significant changes to WHS regulations by the act was that the scope of the employer’s responsibilities became broader and now requires them to provide protective measures for not only employers, however, third parties as well. Therefore, all workplaces will need to have policies outlining the WHS protections afforded to individuals such as suppliers, sub-contractors, customers, visitors of the business site and other third parties.
For WHS practices to be most effective and comply with WHS legislation, it is important that employers effectively communicate with their employees regarding their policies. Not only should they keep employees informed about accidents in the workplace and new protective measures, the WHS Act goes further and requires that employers analyse any near misses and communicate with their staff the outcomes of their analysis. Including the likely cause of the incident and measures to prevent it from occurring again. It is always useful to stress the importance of following WHS regulations to employees and remind them of the business’s WHS policies to ensure best practice.
Failure to adhere to WHS legislation can result in severe penalties for a business owner. A person who is conducting a business or a corporation can be fined up to $1.5 million. They could also be subject to negligence claims and required to pay worker’s compensation to employees who have been injured during employment. Therefore it is vital that workplaces ensure that they are complying with WHS regulations and enforcing WHS policies, educating their employees on the importance of WHS and constantly reviewing their effectiveness in ensuring safety in the workplace.
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