Are you across your health and safety responsibilities in the workplace?

Generally, the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (the Act) and supporting regulations and codes set out responsibilities applicable to all persons in the workplace in Western Australia.  Other more specific legislation and regulations may apply depending on the type of industry involved (eg. mining and gas). The Act applies to employers, supervisors, other employees, self-employed people (such as contractors) and non-employees (such as volunteers and visitors).

The Act aims to promote and secure the health and safety of people at work, protect people at work from hazards, assist in securing safe work environments, and to encourage cooperation and consultation between employers and employees.

Everyone at work should be familiar with and understand their health and safety responsibilities under this legislation. Not only can individuals and corporations be held liable and incur penalties if they are involved in serious breaches of the Act, but taking steps to eliminate health and safety hazards in the workplace may also help avoid unnecessary costs and reputational damage associated with workplace injury or illness.

A key focus of the legislation is around the duties owed by employers towards others in the workplace.

To comply with the basic requirements of the Act, an employer must, so far as is practicable, provide and maintain a working environment where their employees are not exposed to hazards. This involves:

  • providing safe systems of work for employees;
  • providing information, instructions, training and supervision of employees;
  • consulting with employees regarding occupational safety and health at the workplace; and
  • where applicable, providing employees with adequate personal protection clothing and equipment.

This general duty imposed on employers under the Act, also extends to other working relationships including persons engaged as contractors or under labour hire arrangements. 

To effectively manage workplace health and safety hazards, an employer should apply the following three step process:

(1)   Identify hazards which could cause harm in the workplace;

(2)   Assess the risk of harm associated with each hazard; and

(3)   Implement the measures to eliminate, reduce or control the risk where practicable

These steps should be reviewed regularly, especially if there are changes in the work environment, new technology is introduced, or standards are changed. Employers are also encouraged to implement a workplace health and safety policy, provide a copy to all staff, and provide training to ensure that everyone understands the relevant expectations and responsibilities.

The content of this blog is intended to provide a general overview and guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.