Work Health and Safety Applies to all Businesses

The principles of the Work Health Safety Act 2011 apply to all businesses.

It doesn’t matter how big your business is or how many staff you have we all have the same responsibilities.

What varies between business to business is the type of Work Health Safety System you will need to reduce the opportunity of prosecution or a civil claim.

Changes to the Work Health Safety Act in 2011 place responsibility on owners or directors of organisations to know what is going on in their business. This is called due diligence, which we will discuss further below.

The legislation requires you to do everything reasonably practicable to provide a safe workplace for workers.

Work Health Safety

Managing safety in the workplace is the best way to prevent injuries and prosecution.

Managing safety involves talking with your workers to make your workplace and work practices both safe and efficient.

As the owner of the business you need to look for situations that have the potential to cause harm or injury and then take action to prevent incidents from happening.

Over the past four years more than 400,000 workers were injured in NSW workplaces. More than 13,500 were permanently disabled and 312 died. (WorkSafe NSW).

There are specific laws about managing the risks to the health and safety of everyone in the workplace regardless of whether they are employees or contractors.

Identify Safety Risks to Workers

Workers know the safety problems that you have in your business.

So the first step is to talk to your workers about problems they may have encountered, such as near misses, aches and pains, and anything else which may concern them about their safety. This is called Consultation. Consultation with workers is a key principle of good safety practice.

Suggested ways to identify potential safety problems in the workplace include:

  • Taking regular walks around the workplace
  • Looking how plant and equipment are used
  • Looking out for unsafe work practices
  • Review the general state of housekeeping
  • Finding out what chemicals are around and how they are used

You should also:

  • Analyse incident reports, worker complaints, reasons for sick leave
  • Get safety data sheets and instruction manuals from manufacturers and suppliers
  • Get information from industry associations, unions and us.

Get rid of the problems

The best way to have an injury-free workplace is to get rid of potential safety problems, ideally at the design or planning stage.

If you can’t eliminate the problem completely, you need to minimise the risk to your staff.

Limit the impact of the problem

Do the best you can to do one or more of the following:

  • Substitute the problem with something safer – e.g. Replace solvent-based paints with water-based ones.
  • Isolate the problem from people – e.g. Install a guard to prevent access to moving parts on a machine.
  • Use engineering controls – e.g. Use springs to self-close gates.

Minimise any remaining risks with Administrative Controls – e.g. Install warning signs.

If a risk still remains, use Personal Protective Equipment – e.g. Ear muffs, face masks, hard hats.

A combination of controls often works well.

Review and revise controls

You must review your risk control measures:

  • When the control measure is not working
  • Before workplace layout or practices are changed
  • If a new problem is found
  • If consultation shows a review is necessary
  • If a health and safety representative requests it.

Not sure where to start. Try our Scorecard to review your system. It’s free.