The Queensland Government's Workplace health and safety website provides guidelines and information about relevant legislation to help keep your organisation's staff and volunteers healthy and safe.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) and its Regulations came into operation on 1 January 2012 to bring into force a harmonised National workplace health and safety approach. Historically, workplace health and safety legislation was introduced to prevent a person's death, injury or illness being caused by a workplace, workplace areas or activities or by plant and substances used in a workplace.
A broad range of activities and working situations are covered by the legislation. One of the aims of the legislation is to encourage self regulation by employers towards the development of internal responsibility for health and safety systems, health and safety training and programs. In particular, this means that all employers (including a person conducting a business or undertaking and/or a person with management or control of the workplace) must assume responsibility for identifying hazards arising from the activities of their organisation and workplace, assessing the risks that may result from those hazards, deciding on appropriate control measures to prevent or minimise the risks and putting those control measures in place. Constant monitoring and reviews of those control measures are also necessary.
Obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act
Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), a number of persons with responsibilities in or around a workplace have obligations to ensure the health and safety of workers and others. Significant penalties have been incorporated into the legislation to ensure compliance by all persons in the workplace.
A person (including a corporation) conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers engaged or caused to be engaged by the person and workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the person while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking. A person who owes a duty or obligation under the Act, must exercise due diligence to ensure that the company complies with the duty or obligation. The definition of a person extends to an officer as defined within the meaning of section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001(Cth).
On this basis, employers are required to ensure that the work health and safety of each of their workers and other persons (including members of the public) is not affected by the conduct of the employer's business or undertaking. As an employing organisation, your obligations include:
- Ensuring your employees are not exposed to risks to their health and safety
- Providing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment
- Ensuring safe systems of work
- Providing and maintaining safe plant
- Providing information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure health and safety
- Putting in place effective health and safety management practices which protect visitors to the workplace
- Ensuring that all others who enter into your workplace, including volunteers, contractors and members of the public are not exposed to risks to their health and safety
Ensuring that access to and from the workplace, and plant and substances used at the workplace, do not pose a health or safety risk to persons who are not your employees but who are nevertheless working at the workplace - cleaning contractors or delivery drivers providing services at a workplace would fall into this category. The Act places responsibility on employees to comply with their employer's instructions about work healthy and safety. Other people such as visitors, volunteers or contractors also have a legal obligation to comply with the directions for work health and safety given by the employer, e.g. a motorist driving a vehicle into a workplace has a duty to comply with any standards imposed by the organisation to ensure health and safety at the workplace.
Employees and others at a workplace also must not wilfully or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided for workplace health and safety and must not wilfully place at risk the health and safety of any person.
Suppliers and manufacturers of plant (this includes machinery, equipment, appliances, implements and tools) have a legal obligation to ensure that the plant is safe and without risk to health when used properly. Owners of plant must also ensure that the plant is maintained in a condition that ensures the plant is safe and without risk to health, when used properly.
The Act also imposes obligations upon, amongst others, persons in control of workplaces, principal contractors, designers and installers of plant and designers of structures used as workplaces.
Recording and notifying events
The Regulation requires that a record of the particulars of every work injury, work caused illness or dangerous event that occurs at a workplace be documented within three (3) days after the person required to make the record becomes aware of the event. The record must be made in the approved form and must be kept for one year after it was made.
Employers and their senior staff in each workplace should be aware of this requirement to ensure that documentation is completed in the event of such injury, illness or dangerous event. All records should be maintained at the workplace and must be made available for inspection by, or production to, an Inspector from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland if required.
The employer must advise the Department of every serious bodily injury, work caused illness or dangerous event that happens at the workplace. This notice must be provided to the chief executive within 24 hours after the employer becomes aware of the event. The notice must be in the approved form.
Employers and their senior staff in each workplace should be aware of this requirement and measures should be implemented to ensure that the documentation is completed in the event of a serious bodily injury, work caused illness or dangerous event. "Serious bodily injury" refers to an injury which causes death, loss of part of the injured person's body or loss of an organ, or the injured person being absent from work for more than 4 days.
Where the injury, illness or event causes death, immediate notice must be given to the chief executive. Notice must also be given in the approved form within 24 hours after the employer becomes aware of the death.
There must be no interference with the scene of a workplace incident until permitted by an Inspector from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland or a police officer. However, it is acceptable to interfere with the scene where it is necessary to prevent damage to property, injury to persons, or to save life or relieve suffering.
Employee participation in work health and safety
The self regulatory nature of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) requires employee participation in the formulation, implementation and management of occupational health and safety issues. The legislation provides for the setting up of health and safety management structures at workplaces where employees and employee organisations may be actively involved in the management and consultation of health and safety. Such management structures may include the formation of a health and safety committee consisting of Work Health and Safety Representative and other members from the workplace. The functions of these committees may include:
- Encouraging and maintaining an active interest in health and safety at work
- Considering measures for training, consultation and education in health and safety
- Advising employees about the formulation, review and distribution of standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety
- Assisting in the resolution of issues regarding health and safety
The Act makes provision for the appointment of Workplace Health and Safety Representatives. Workplace Health and Safety Representatives are elected by their co-workers.
Enquiries regarding the application of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), Regulation and Codes of Practice, including the supply of relevant forms, should be directed to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on 1300 369 915 or go to www.whs.qld.gov.au. There are a number of offices in Queensland. Contact details can be obtained from the Department's website.
Other useful resources are listed below: