2017 is here! A new year provides us with an opportunity to reassess our priorities and make positive changes.
Why not make it your professional new year’s resolution to review your Workplace Health and Safety processes, ensuring a safe and healthy 2017 for yourself, your staff, your customers and the public.
Creating a safe work environment is critical to the success of any business, including a franchise operation. It is one of the best ways to retain your staff and maximise productivity. Having the right attitude towards the safety of your workers, contractors, customers and the public is an important first step, as is ensuring this attitude is shared by everyone involved in your business.
Workplace Health and Safety shouldn’t be seen as an additional cost; it should be viewed as an investment. After all, it’s better to deal with health and safety issues before they escalate or injuries occur. While there may be an investment in implementing safe practices, installing safety equipment or purchasing personal protective equipment, it’s important to remember that the consequences and penalties associated with not taking action can be severe.
Knowing and understanding the Work Health and Safety laws will help you as a franchisee avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your business caused by workplace injury and illness. It will also provide your business with a strong foundation to achieve long-term success.
Legislation – National Harmonization: From OHS to WHS
Australian governments have worked together to put in place laws that harmonise occupational health and safety laws with the aim of providing equal protection and standards to workers in each state or territory and in turn, simplify health and safety for businesses operating across state and territory borders. A review took place in 2008 and the resulting Model Work Health and Safety Act formed the basis of the new Work Health and Safety Acts that have been enacted across Australian states and territories to coordinate work health and safety laws.
In NSW, QLD, ACT and NT, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 gives effect to the Model Work Health and Safety Act and in SA and TAS, it is the Work Health and Safety Act 2012. This signified a shift from in terminology from Occupational Health and Safety to Work Health and Safety.
It is important to note that VIC and WA have yet to enact or pass any Work Health and Safety legislation and are still operating under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1984 respectively.
Act, Regulations and Code of Practice, what’s the difference?
Acts provide the framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work and others who may be affected by the work, such as contractors, customers or the public. Acts give a general overview of how to make workplaces safe and healthy and they outline your legal responsibilities and duties as an employer and business owner.
Regulations set out the standards you need to meet for specific hazards and risks, such as noise, machinery, and manual handling and prescribe certain procedural and administrative requirements such as the licenses you need for specific activities, the records you need to keep, and the reports you need to make.
Codes of Practice , unlike Acts and Regulations are not legally binding. Instead they provide practical guidance on how to meet the standards set out in the Acts and Regulations. While compliance with the Codes of Practice is not mandatory, they can be used as evidence to measure whether a business is meeting its duties under the Acts and Regulations. This means that if higher standards are not in place, it is recommended that a business be familiar with any relevant Code of Practice and utilise the guidance contained within.
In Australia, Safe Work Australia and the Workplace Health and Safety authorities in each state or territory have responsibilities for enforcing Work Health and Safety or Occupational Health and Safety legislation and regulations. They are responsible for inspecting workplaces, providing advice and help and handing out notices and penalties where necessary.
Key Obligations – Duty of Care, Reasonably Practicable, Duty to Consult and Duty of Workers
Modern Work Health and Safety Acts extended the duties of an employer beyond their employees to anyone who carries out work in any capacity including employees, contractors, subcontractors, self-employed persons, outworkers, apprentices and trainees, work experience students and volunteers who carry out work and to others at a workplace such as suppliers, visitors or customers.
As an employer, you have a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable:
• the provision and maintenance of a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, including safe access to and from the workplace;
• the provision and maintenance of plant, structure and systems of work that are safe and do not pose health risks;
• the safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant, structure and substances;
• the provision of adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at work;
• the provision of information, instruction, training or supervision to workers needed for them to work without risks to their health and safety and that of others around them;
• that the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace are monitored to prevent injury or illness arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking, and
• the maintenance of any accommodation owned or under their management and control to ensure the health and safety of workers occupying the premises.
In relation to workplace health and safety, reasonably practicable means that everything reasonably attainable has to be been done to protect the workers. This includes assessing:
• the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and
• the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk; and
• what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or the risk and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk; and
• the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
• after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.
As an employer, you have a duty to consult with your workers and Work Health and Safety Officers (if you have them) so far as is reasonably practicable, about matters that directly affect them. This duty extends to consulting with all workers, not just employees, including any contractors and their workers, employees of labour hire companies, students on work experience, apprentices and trainees.
While at work, workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and that of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions. They must also:
• comply, so far as they are reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction given by the business to allow the business to comply with Work Health and Safety laws, and
• cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure of the business relating to health or safety at the workplace that has been notified to worker
Psychological Health – a growing risk
Health is defined in Work Health and Safety legislation as physical and psychological health. As an employer, you have a duty to protect the psychological health and safety of your workers as well as their physical health and safety. More and more workers are suffering work related psychological injuries and illnesses such as anxiety and depression as a result of workplace bullying. As an employer, failure to put in place processes to manage the risk of workplace bullying can result in a breach of Work Health and Safety legislation.
What can I do? Where do I start? How do I get help?
Not every business can support an in house Work Health and Safety expert and Work Health and Safety can be a daunting area for any business. The acts, regulations and codes of practice can be difficult to understand and interpret but there is support and guidance available for employers.
Safe Work Australia and the Workplace Health and Safety authorities in each state or territory are there to help employers create safe and healthy work places and can provide resources, guidance and assistance. Regulatory bodies encourage and support employers who are proactive in their work health and safety obligations and onsite visits can even be arranged.
Another option for assistance is to engage a specialist Human Resources Consultant to assess your obligations and develop a customised Work Health and Safety system that works for your business.
Once you have the right systems and processes in place, you need to embed health and safety into your culture. It needs to become a part of the way people think, an instinct, where looking after the health and safety of yourself and those around you in the workplace is second nature. This attitude can only come from the top down so it is essential that you as a business owner, franchisee or employer demonstrate the importance of health and safety in everything that you do.
Susan Bromley brings a wealth of experience to the HR Central Team and has extensive experience in all aspects of HR, including Workplace Health and Safety Assessments and Training.
HR Central is an Australia-wide provider of HR services and solutions to the Franchise Sector across all industries. HR Specialists are on call to advise you in every aspect of HR and the employment lifecycle including policies, procedures documentation to help you stay compliant with current HR legislation. An affordable software solution specifically designed to help you meet your HR compliance obligations as well as manage leave and track qualifications is also available.
Contact one of our friendly team for further information on:
1300 717 721