A guide to health and safety responsibilities in the workplace
Under workplace health and safety laws, you have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace, regardless of whether you’re a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), an officer (e.g. a business owner or CEO), a worker or even a visitor. Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility; however, specific health and safety responsibilities in the workplace vary more granularly from managers to workers and beyond.
In this article, we share details about health and safety responsibilities in the workplace so you can determine what you’re doing right — and what you can do to improve.
Health and safety responsibilities for employees/workers
A worker is someone who carries out work in any capacity for your business. This might include employees, trainees, apprentices and work experience students, volunteers, contractors and subcontractors. In some circumstances, even visitors can be considered “workers”.
According to SafeWork Australia, the health and safety responsibilities of employees include:
- Taking reasonable care for their own health and safety
- Taking reasonable care for the health and safety of others
- Complying with reasonable instructions, policies and procedures given by their employer or workplace.
It’s also important for workers to:
- Work safely and follow instructions
- Ask if they’re not sure how to perform the work safely
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Report injuries or unsafe/unhealthy situations to their supervisor or health and safety representative (HSR).
Health and safety responsibilities for managers
Primary duty of care
When it comes to health and safety responsibilities for managers, the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) has a primary duty of care for all workers and is responsible for the health and safety of everyone in the workplace — including visitors.
- The workplace environment
The PCBU is responsible for providing and maintaining a safe working environment. This includes safe work areas, lighting, floors and surfaces, entries and exits, fixtures and fittings and ventilation. The PCBU is also responsible for managing risks like airborne contaminants, hazardous atmospheres, falling objects and storing flammable or combustible materials.
- Providing adequate facilities
Workers need access to clean, safe facilities, and it is the PCBU’s role to maintain them. This includes toilets, drinking water, first aid equipment and facilities, and areas for washing and eating.
- Instruction, training and supervision
It is also the role of the PCBU to provide adequate training, information and instructions to ensure each worker is safe from injuries and other risks to their health. Likewise, it is important to ensure ample first aid is available and to prepare, maintain and implement emergency plans, and comply with requirements for using personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Consulting with workers
The PCBU must consult workers who are (or will be) affected by workplace health and safety changes. Workers’ views matter as they’re the ones undertaking potential risks in their everyday work – consulting with them can improve decisions about safety matters and even help reduce work-related injuries and illnesses.
It’s important to:
– Share information regularly, not on a case-by-case basis (fix problems early)
– Give workers an opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process
– Take their views into account before making a decision
– Advise workers of the outcome of these consultations.
Workers can ask for a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) to represent them in workplace health and safety matters. If this is the case, the HSR should be consulted in decision-making.
Managing workplace health and safety risks
As a PCBU, part of your duty of care is to eliminate or minimise risks as much as possible, which means you must also identify, assess, and control hazards and risks. The Model WHS Regulations from SafeWork Australia provide specific requirements that PCBUs must follow when managing risks from certain hazards or hazardous work, including but not limited to:
- Electrical or construction work
- Hazardous atmospheres or chemicals
- Hearing loss associated with noise
- Falls or falling objects
- Hazardous manual tasks
- Confined spaces
- Isolated work
- Diving work
A PCBU should also apply the hierarchy of control measures where a risk cannot be eliminated. See the hierarchy of controls and examples below.
Example: Hierarchy of controls for a piece of machinery.
- Eliminate the hazard altogether. If there’s a piece of unsafe machinery on-site, remove or isolate it so it cannot be used.
- Substitute the hazard with a safer alternative. Consider replacing the unsafe machine with an updated, safer alternative.
- Use engineering controls to reduce the risk. You might attach guards to the unsafe machine to protect users.
- Use administrative controls to reduce the risk. Provide training for workers on how to use the machine.
- Use PPE. Wear gloves and goggles when using the machine.
Improving workplace health and safety through ongoing assessment
Completing a regular review of workplace health and safety procedures can have a real impact, allowing PCBUs to identify risks and hazards sooner rather than later. With this in mind, we encourage PCBUs to contact BusinessBasics for an ISO 45001 gap assessment.
ISO 45001 is the internationally agreed upon standard for workplace health and safety management systems. It’s based on a philosophy of continuous improvement, focusing on pro-active risk reduction and improvement of workplace health and safety. Developed by a panel of global health and safety experts, implementing an ISO 45001 compliant WHS management system is the simplest and most practical way to guarantee the best approach to WHS in your workplace.
If you are not already certified, ISO 45001 will blend seamlessly with your existing management processes and procedures, continually improving safety and efficiency in your workplace.
Our team of ISO certification consultants will complete a gap analysis of your existing WHS management system and identify any areas of non-compliance. We will then help develop a plan and address these areas of non-compliance, including developing new safety systems and processes.
We can even assist with training your team, so they know how to navigate the new safety system and feel confident and supported in their day-to-day activities.
Allow us to assist with your WHS roles and responsibilities. Contact BusinessBasics for more information about our services.
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