Occupational Health and Safety
Every employer must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all of its workers, including volunteers. The protection covers the physical safety and mental health of all workers, including volunteers.
This primary duty on an organisation is qualified by ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. This means the organisation does not have to guarantee that no harm will occur, but must do what is reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety.
The primary duty of an organisation includes ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- The provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety
- The provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures and safe systems of work
- The safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances
- The provision of adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers, including volunteers, for example toilets, first aid facilities, and
- The provision of information, training and instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from their work.
Managing health and safety risks
The process of eliminating or minimising health and safety risks is called risk management and involves four steps:
- Identifying hazards– find out what could cause harm
- Assess the risks if necessary– understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening
- Control risks– implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances, and
- Review control measures– to ensure they are working as planned.
A breach of workplace health and safety laws is a criminal offence in NSW, and that means individuals, including company directors can face heavy fines and imprisonment if they fail to ensure a safe work environment.