If you are an employer, manager or officer of a business, you have duties to manage workplace health and safety (WHS) risks. Risk management is an ongoing and integral process for new and existing business owners. In particular, you should focus on risk management when you are changing work practices or environments and responding to workplace incidents or concerns. The duties under the model WHS laws can be challenging to interpret. However, Safe Work Australia has developed a code of practice (Code) to provide practical guidance on achieving the required workplace health and safety standards. They have provided effective ways for you to identify and manage risks in your business to ensure WHS compliance.
This article outlines some practical tips to help you comply with your WHS duties.
As an employer, you have the primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of your workers. Under the model WHS laws, duty holders include:
You should identify your duty holders (e.g. by reviewing your organisational structure) and ensure that they understand their obligations. A person can have multiple duties, and more than one person can have the same duty at the same time.
You can provide a workplace induction and implement a WHS policy to inform your duty holders of their responsibilities and the potential consequences for contravening the policy.
The Code includes the following figure to illustrate the risk management process.
You should identify what could cause harm to people, including physical and mental injury or illness. For example, hazards may arise from the:
The Code provides the following examples of common hazards.
Furthermore, the Code also includes tips to identify hazards. For example, you should:
A risk assessment involves determining, firstly, how hazards may cause harm. Secondly, you must assess how severe the harm could be. Finally, you should assess the likelihood of the harm occurring.
This step may not be necessary if the risks are known and you have measures to control the risks. However, expert or specialist advice can be helpful if you are conducting a risk assessment of a complex situation.
You should implement and maintain effective measures to control risks. To assist, the Code provides the following figure to illustrate the hierarchy of control measures.
To elaborate on this figure, the hierarchy of control measures includes:
The most effective control measure involves eliminating the risk. However, if this is not reasonably practicable, you should work through the alternatives in the hierarchy to minimise the risk.
You should regularly review your control measures for effectiveness and improvements.
You should keep records of the risk management process, such as information about:
You should identify the duty holders in your business and ensure that they understand and comply with their obligations. Furthermore, you should also undertake and keep records of risk management processes. A risk management process involves identifying hazards, assessing risks, implementing measures to control risks and continually reviewing the control measures.
If you have any questions about complying with your WHS duties or preparing employee policies, contact our employment lawyers as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.