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Workplace Health and Safety and You

Workplace Health And Safety

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has again been under pressure because of the Home Insulation Program.

The program which saw the death of 3 workers, was discontinued due to an assortment of difficulties. In some cases, workers were allegedly insufficiently trained and left unattended without proper supervision.

Incidents such as these created a strong push for new laws and better protection for workers.

The New Workplace Health and Safety laws

On 1 January 2012, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) came into operation. The WHS Act covers all employees in the performance of their work. It also covers home based workers and volunteers who work in connection with a business. The WHS Act also provides protection to the general public so that their health and safety is not placed at risk by work activities.

The duty to safeguard the health and safety of workers is a responsibility placed on every employer  Employers must consider the health and safety risks to all workers whilst in the workplace.

Employers must comply with the law. For failure to comply with the law, an employer risks fines up to $3 million for corporations, $600,000 for company officers and $300,000 for workers.

The WHS Act was created to provide all workers in Australia with the same standard of health and safety protection regardless of the nature or location  of the work. Employers are required to provide workers with the following guarantees:

  • That they will provide safe system of work;
  • That they will ensure the safety of the use, handling, storage and transport of equipment or substances in the workplace; and
  • That they will provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training, and supervision to carry out their work.

In order to be eligible for compensation, an employee must meet two primary requirements:

  • The employee must be a bona fide employee of that person or company; and
  • The injury or illness sustained must be work related.

Fulfilment of these requirements does not guarantee you a claim. It does, however, make you eligible to apply for one.

Employer responsibilities

Employers include those individuals or corporations who conduct a business or business undertaking. Employers must ensure that workers are safe while at work by protecting employees against the potential health and safety risks of the work they do.

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees are covered by Workers Compensation Insurance and see to it that workers are compensated in case of any injuries or illnesses sustained or aggravated whilst at work.

Workers compensation is an insurance program provided by State and Commonwealth laws which provides for compensation to employees who are injured or sustain illness as a result of their employment.

The responsibilities of an employer are however subject to what is reasonably practicable. This is a principle in law that describes the degree of protection that workers must receive from their employers. It tempers the obligation to provide safety to workers with a consideration for the practicality of the protection that would be required to prevent a particular risk.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees also have certain responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety law. You must act in a responsible manner and take care to identify, minimise and remove risks involved in your work if possible. An employee must also cooperate with employers in ensuring the health and safety of all workers, and act in a manner that has been dictated to you by workplace training. For this reason, employers can discipline employees for failing to comply with workplace safety regulations, principles, and protocols.

An employee can however also refuse to undertake work that is unsafe or dangerous, or if the work or nature of the work violates the companies health and safety protocols.

Seek Legal Advice

It is best to seek legal advice from a lawyer that can advise you on your particular set of circumstances.