Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) or OH & S as it is more commonly known is a major issue for management. Full compliance with WHS laws and regulations is essential to avoid significant penalties.

It is the responsibility of all managers to provide a safe work environment for their employees and to ensure that safety practices are in place at all times.

In order to provide a safe work environment, you must:

  • Provide and maintain safe machinery and structures
  • Provide safe ways of working
  • Ensure safe use, handling and storage of machinery, structures and substances
  • Provide and maintain adequate facilities
  • Provide any information, training, instruction or supervision needed for safety
  • Monitor the health and safety of workers and conditions at the work place

Workers responsibility:

  • Must take care of their own health and safety
  • Ensure that they do not do anything that could cause injury to others
  • Follow WHS instructions
  • Follow the workplace’s policies and procedures

Each state has its own WHS laws and a regulator to enforce them. The WHS framework in each state includes:

  • The Act which outlines your broad responsibilities
  • Regulations which set out specific requirements for particular hazards and risks, such as noise, machinery and manual handling
  • Codes of Practice which provide practical information on how you can comply with the requirements of the Act and Regulations
  • Regulating agency administers WHS laws, inspects workplaces, provides advice and enforces the laws. In Western Australia this is WorkSafe WA. For further information go to http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/WorkSafe/

When sound WHS policies and procedures are implemented, this is a legal requirement, there are considerable benefits to your business:

  • Helps with staff retention
  • Improves productivity
  • Reduces injury and illness in the workplace
  • Reduces the cost of injury and workers compensation costs

Under the Act there are specific requirements for the risks involved in particular businesses. To check your industry go to: https://www.business.gov.au/Planning/Industry-information

Emergency plans and first aid

Readiness to respond to an incident is a key part of your obligations. To this extent you should have an emergency plan in place which covers:

  • Have you done a first aid assessment of your business?
  • Do you have enough trained first aid officers to cover unplanned staff absences?
  • Is the first aid equipment in your workplace easy to find and access?
  • Does your workplace run emergency drills?
  • Have you evaluated your business activities to identify areas of increased risk?

Summary

As can be seen from the foregoing the regulations covering WHS are quite wide so management must ensure that their internal policies and procedures are up to date with particular reference to acceptable behaviour such as bullying and harassment in the workplace.

In addition, management must be aware of issues such as staff behaviour at work functions, particularly where alcohol is being served. Whilst such functions are social in nature it is still incumbent on employers to ensure the safety of their staff at all times.