Workplace Health and Safety Laws in Australia
What are Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia?
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 sets out framework that protects the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work. It also protects the health and safety of anyone else who might be affected by the work that is being conducted.
What are Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia like?
WHS laws in Australia are very much like a road map for safety on and around the workplace. They direct businesses where to go to stay on track and head in the right direction, but they also show the dead ends that businesses can go down, and the consequences that result from these indiscretions.
What is the purpose of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia?
The purpose of WHS laws in Australia is to prevent injury, disease and death to persons in the workplace. The legislation sets out things such as what are systems of work that are safe and minimise risks to health, what regulations must be followed, the powers of safety inspectors, how breeches of the legislation are fixed and enforced. Most importantly it sets out the duties that are placed on ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU).
What are the different types of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia?
There are different types of WHS laws for different industries in Australia. The mining industry obviously has different dangers and threats to workers safety compared to the retail industry. Given the different danger levels of the industries, the WHS laws have to diverge to suit all industries. Mining WHS laws are regulated by the different States and Territories. Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales all have separate mining WHS regulations, while the states with smaller mining industries are all regulated by the general WHS laws (appendix 1).
What is involved with complying with Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia?
Complying with WHS laws in Australia usually includes:
- Includes training all workers (including formal training, education, information and advice)
- Includes identifying, assessing and controlling all potential hazards in the workplace. Commonly known as risk management
- Includes appropriate work and safety equipment
- Includes develop WHS policies that promote safe practises
- Includes regular inspections of the workplace
Where does compliance with Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia fit into the process of starting a business?
Compliance with WHS laws in Australia fits into the process of starting a business almost before starting anything else to do with a new business. Complying with WHS laws and regulations in Australia is a continuous journey. Many things must be checked off before starting, first aid requirements, protective clothing and equipment and evacuation procedures, are just a few. Once started, it is a business’s top priority to keep up to date with all WHS audits and checks.
How do Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia impact on different areas of business?
WHS laws in Australia impact strongly on some industries while hardly at all on others, a good example of this is the mining industry compared to the retail industry. The mining industry, because it is almost always in dangerous and risky situations, has its own regulations, separate to the general WHS laws for each state. The dangerous situations that miners are in everyday leads to a more stringent set of WHS laws for the industry. The set of WHS regulations for the mining industry, are completely out of place and unrealistic to a retail environment, which is why the retail industry has a different set of WHS laws to the mining industry. Hence WHS laws impact differently on some industries compared to others.
What terms are used in Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia?
- PCBU – ‘Person conducting business or undertaking’, refers to people who have duties regarding the business. This involves such people, as those involved in the management and control of workplaces, with management or control of fixtures, fittings or plants at a workplace and persons who design, manufacture, import or supply products.
- Worker – under the WHS act, a worker is anyone carrying out work for a PCBU, in any capacity.
- Health and Safety Representative (HSR) – A HSR is the person elected by a work group to represent them during consultations on Work Health and Safety issues.
- Reasonably Practicable – is taking all steps as a duty holder is reasonably able to.
- Workplace – A workplace is anywhere that work carried out for a business or undertaking, it includes any place that a worker goes, or is likely to go, while at work.
Where can I find more information about Workplace Health and Safety laws in Australia?
Who would most benefit from this knowledge?
This article would most benefit people who already know a little bit about workplace health and safety, and are wanting to either broaden their knowledge on the area. This information is relevant to all levels of workers, but, it is most relevant to someone in a senior management position. Senior managers are usually responsible for creating and implementing, WHS procedures in a workplace for all staff to follow. Workplace health and safety laws affect everyone in the workplace. It sets out the different responsibilities that different positions have to comply with workplace health and safety laws. Workplace health and safety is primarily the responsibility of the States and Territories to regulate. The Commonwealth however, is in charge of workplace health and safety, and workers compensation for its own employees. The Commonwealth also supports the States and Territories with funding of the independent statutory agency, Safe Work Australia. Climate has a slight effect on how WHS laws in Australia. In a climate as volatile as Australia’s, extra precautions must be taken to protect workers. Sunglasses, proper clothing, hats and proper sun protection is a precaution taken for the climate that people may working in. Cultural differences have no effect on workplace health and safety laws. Every organisational type, from every industry, benefits from workplace health and safety laws, as everyone must follow the regulations or risk being shut down.
|Jurisdiction||Mining Legislative Framework|
|Australian Capital Territory, Commonwealth||Mining regulated under general work health and safety legislation without specific mining regulations.|
|Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria||Mining regulated under general work health and safety legislation with some specific mining regulations|
|New South Wales||General work health and safety regulations apply along with separate mining regulations|
|Queensland, Western Australia||Mining regulated under stand-alone mining health and safety legislation|