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By agreement, the Commonwealth and state and territory governments (which have constitutional responsibility for regulating work health and safety in their respective jurisdictions) have endorsed and committed to enact laws that reflect the model Work Health Safety Act developed for consultation by Safe Work Australia. Accordingly, the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, based on the model WHS Act, was enacted by the Commonwealth in 2011. Many other jurisdictions have since followed suit with their own mirror legislation.
One of the main benefits of the WHS Act is that it provides for a nationally consistent legal Framework of work health and safety standards and obligations. Businesses and undertakings, especially those operating across state borders, will be able to apply one set of workplace standards nationally and enjoy more certainty in understanding their health and safety obligations in different state jurisdictions.
Codes of practice are developed through consultation with representatives from industry, workers and employers, special interest groups and government agencies. Codes of practice are made under the relevant Act and must be approved by the relevant Minister before they come into effect. A code of practice is not law, but it should be followed, unless there is an alternative course of action that achieves the same or better standards. Employers, workers, designers, manufacturers and suppliers should use a code of practice in conjunction with the Act and regulations. Codes of practice are available from workplace health and safety authorities for such things as ‘How to Safely Remove Asbestos’.
A hazardous manual task, as defined in the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations), means a task that requires a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing involving one or more of the following:
These factors can overload the body and lead to injury.
A duty holder is a person who has a duty to ensure health or safety (‘health and safety duties’) require the person:
PCBU duty- A PCBU, through its officers, has a duty under the WHS Act to consult with workers at all levels of the business. Senior leaders and managers should promote and foster open lines of communication and consultation with workers. This can be achieved by:
Managing WHS risks involves four steps:
Figure 1 the risk management process
Conduct a safety audit (or hazard inspection) - this is a process of determining any possible risks in the work place.
Observe the way jobs and procedures are carried out to make sure they are completed following safe work practices
Study the accident and incident statistics to understand what the previous problem shave been, who could be harmed by the hazards and how.
Figure 2 The hierarchy of risk control
The information provided through recording and reporting enables the enforcing authorities (either Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authority Environmental Health), to identify where and how risks arise, and to investigate serious accidents. With this information, the enforcing authorities are able to help and provide advice on how to reduce injury, and ill health in the workplace. Such surveillance data can also be used to put forward an evidence-based rationale for the introduction of new legislation and/or guidance.
Near Misses Although not part of the legal duties mentioned above, it is also good practice to record non-reportable 'near-miss incidents, workplace accidents and occurrences where no-one has actually been hurt or become ill, but where the consequences could have been serious for workers. In this way, it is possible to learn from such incidents so that workers are protected from harm, using the old adage 'prevention is better than cure'.
Everyone has a role to play to ensure that health and safety is a priority in the workplace. Two important holders to whom risks might be and ensure health and safety to ‘manage risks’ by eliminating health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and if it is not reasonably practicable to do so, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Two important holders are PCBU and Officer.
Notifiable incidents are:
If a notifiable incident occurs the model WHS Act states that:
In not more than 48 hours, a written Notification should be sent.
Comcare, (2017) Retrieved from https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/physical_hazards/hazardous_manual_tasks
Safe work Australia, (2011). Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011
Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, 2011.
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