Workplace Safety: Key Employer Responsibilities for Health and Safety

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Employer Responsibilities Health and Safety

When running a business, ensuring workplace safety is a crucial job that sits right at the top of the employer’s responsibilities for health and safety.

As a business leader, it’s like being the captain of a ship, where keeping the crew safe is just as important as reaching the destination.

This is true for any and every workplace, regardless of its size. But what does it mean to keep a workplace safe? 

Employer Responsibilities for Health and Safety in QLD

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 outlines the various health and safety responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of businesses and employers in Queensland.

These employer responsibilities for health and safety, also known as a “duty of care,” are essential to minimising liability in the workplace and ensuring that all employees are in good health. 

The following is a list of critical legal responsibilities that are placed on employers:

  • Provision of a Safe Environment: The foremost employer’s responsibility is to provide and maintain a safe and risk-free work environment, minimising workplace liability.
  • Implementation of Safe Systems: Employers are legally responsible for creating and implementing safe work systems, including security procedures for handling, storing, and transporting materials.
  • Training and Supervision: To uphold health and safety, employers must provide adequate information, training, and supervision to all workers, thus ensuring safe work practices and reducing employer legal responsibilities.
  • Facilities Maintenance: A part of employer responsibilities for health and safety involves providing and maintaining safe facilities and amenities for workers.
  • Health Monitoring: Employers should monitor the health of their workers and the workplace conditions, which is critical in preventing illness or injury and reducing workplace liability.
  • Worker Consultation: Employers must consult with workers when making health and safety decisions.
  • Risk Management: One of the crucial employer legal responsibilities includes identifying possible hazards, assessing risks, and implementing necessary control measures.

Failure to adhere to these employer responsibilities for health and safety can result in penalties, including fines and possible imprisonment.

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How to Create a Safer and Healthier Business in Qld? 

Creating a safer and healthier business involves multiple components spanning various areas of the organisation.

It’s about physical safety, promoting a healthier work environment regarding mental health, work-life balance, and fostering a positive culture. Here are some steps to achieve this in Queensland (QLD), Australia, though these principles apply broadly:

Comply with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Laws: QLD has a Work Health and Safety Act that outlines businesses’ legal obligations to ensure the health and safety of their employees. It’s crucial to familiarise yourself with these laws and ensure your business complies.

Risk Assessments and Safety Planning: Identify potential hazards and risks in your workplace and create a plan to mitigate them. This can range from physical dangers like machinery to psychological troubles like stress. Once you’ve identified potential risks, make a plan for mitigating them and educate your employees about this plan.

Establish a Health and Safety Committee: Encourage employee participation in health and safety decision-making through a safety committee. This committee should include representatives from different levels and areas of the business and meet regularly to discuss safety issues and initiatives.

Regular Training: Regularly train your staff in health and safety procedures, including first aid, proper use of machinery, handling hazardous substances, ergonomics, and emergency procedures. Training should be ongoing and adapted as new risks or strategies arise.

Mental Health and Well-being Initiatives: Encourage a culture of health and well-being by implementing initiatives that help manage stress, encourage work-life balance, and foster a positive, respectful work culture. This could include flexible work hours, mental health days, and resources for employees to access professional mental health support.

Infection Control: Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are more aware of the need for proper infection control. This could involve regular cleaning, encouraging employees to stay home when sick, providing hand sanitiser, and implementing social distancing measures where possible.

Open Communication: Encourage a culture where employees feel comfortable raising health and safety concerns. This can help identify and address problems early.

Regular Reviews: Health and safety are ongoing commitments. Regularly review and update your policies and procedures to ensure they work effectively and address all potential hazards.

Insurance: Ensure your business is adequately insured. This includes workers’ compensation insurance, which is mandatory if you employ workers in QLD and other relevant insurance like public liability and product liability.

Remember, a safer and healthier business is not only good for your employees. Still, it can also improve productivity, reduce sick leave and employee turnover, and improve your reputation with customers and clients. It’s an investment that can deliver significant returns for your business.

Also read: Quad Bike Safety Laws in Australia: What You Need to Follow

Workplace negligence in Australia has led to various work-related injuries, often resulting in significant ramifications for the injured parties and the responsible organisations.

These injuries, which often could have been prevented through proper care and safety protocols, have shaped the conversation around workplace safety in Australia and spurred calls for increased regulation and enforcement.

Here are a few workplace negligence cases in Australia that demonstrate the range of work-related injuries:

Construction Site Falls: One of Australia’s most common types of workplace negligence cases involves falls on construction sites. In a high-profile case, a worker fell through an unprotected stair void, leading to serious spinal injuries.

The subsequent investigation found the company failed to ensure a safe work environment, leading to a significant fine.

Industrial Machinery Accidents: Another common category of workplace negligence cases in Australia revolves around industrial machinery accidents. In one case, a worker’s hand was severely injured using an unguarded machine, resulting in permanent damage.

The court found the company liable for inadequate training and safety measures.

Exposure to Harmful Substances: Australia has seen several cases of workplace negligence related to exposure to harmful substances.

One notable example was the widespread asbestos exposure, which resulted in numerous lung diseases and mesothelioma cases. Companies like James Hardie have faced major lawsuits for their role in these tragedies.

Physical Overexertion Injuries: These cases often involve workers sustaining injuries due to heavy lifting or repetitive motion without proper precautions or equipment.

A case in point is a warehouse employee who suffered a serious back injury from lifting heavy boxes without assistance or adequate training.

Inadequate Safety Equipment: In a landmark case in Queensland, a company was fined heavily after a worker fell from a height, leading to fatal injuries. The investigation revealed the lack of safety harnesses and adequate fall protection measures.

Negligent Operation of Vehicles: In industries involving vehicles, such as mining or logistics, there have been serious or fatal injuries due to negligent operation or maintenance of vehicles. In one case, a truck driver for a mining company lost his life when his truck plunged off a makeshift ramp.

Lack of Training: In some workplace negligence cases in Australia, inadequate training results in injuries. For instance, a young apprentice suffered severe burns in a restaurant kitchen due to a lack of training and supervision when handling hazardous kitchen equipment.

These cases underscore the importance of adhering to workplace safety regulations and providing comprehensive training for all employees.

A single instance of negligence can have devastating consequences for the employees and the business.

Psychosocial Hazards in the Workplace

Psychosocial hazards refer to elements in the workplace and how work is organised that can potentially harm employees’ psychological or physical well-being. They’re often related to how the piece is designed, organised, and managed and the economic and social context of the work.

Here are some common psychosocial hazards in the workplace:

Work-Related Stress: This can be due to excessive workload, constant pressure to meet deadlines or unclear job expectations. Chronic stress can lead to various health issues like anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular diseases.

Workplace Bullying and Harassment: This can include behaviours like unjust criticism, exclusion, overbearing supervision, or spreading malicious rumours. Bullying and harassment can lead to lower productivity, absenteeism, and serious mental health issues.

Violence at Work: This can range from verbal abuse and threats to physical assaults, which pose an immediate risk to the worker’s safety and have a long-term psychological impact.

Poor Work-Life Balance: When workers cannot balance their work demands with their personal lives, it can lead to burnout, stress, and other mental health issues. Long working hours, inflexible work schedules, or excessive travel requirements can cause this.

Lack of Autonomy or Control: When workers have little control over their work processes, tasks, or schedules, it can increase their stress levels and decrease job satisfaction.

Job Insecurity: Economic instability, frequent layoffs, or a lack of career development opportunities can lead to a constant fear of job loss, which can have profound psychological impacts.

Poor Communication: Lack of transparency, inadequate feedback, or poor conflict resolution can lead to a lack of trust and low employee morale.

Workplace Change: Major changes in the workplace, such as restructuring or new technology, can create uncertainty and stress if not managed well.

Are You Confident in Your Employer’s Responsibilities for Health and Safety?

Navigating health and safety obligations can be complex. At Walker Pender Group, we make it simple. Our experts help you understand and fulfil your responsibilities to protect your workforce.

Don’t risk costly oversights. Contact Walker Pender Group today ensuring your business is health and safety compliant. Your team deserves the best. Act now!

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