The governing body for workers rights and safety in Australia is the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the WHS Act). The WHS act provides the basic framework for the rights of workers to work in a healthy and safe environment, regardless what field of work they participate in. It is significant for workers to understand what is contained in the act so that they know their own rights to working in a healthy and safe working environment.
Who Is Protected?:
The WHS protects everyone involved in the business including, but not limited to the employees, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, apprentices/trainees, work experience students, volunteers, and employers who perform work.
Protecting the Public:
The WHS Act also protects the public so their health and safety is not at risk thanks to the business practices of companies that are operating in the area. The WHS Act protects the public interests and health by setting forth business practice standards that are reasonable and attainable, which are also designed to protect the health of the worker as well as of the general population living in the area.
How Is It Enforced?
The WHS enforces all of these policies of health and safety through an enforceable actions such as setting up policies and systems for incident notifications, consultation with workers, issue resolution, inspector powers/functions, and a system for offenses/penalties that a company can incur.
What Does the WHS Act Require Businesses To Do?
The WHS Act requires that business provide their workers with all the basic tools to provide safe work environment including:
- providing safe work premises
- assessing workplaces risks and instilling proper measures to control those risks
- ensure the safe handling of potentially dangerous substances
- provide and adequately maintain the safety of machines and other workplace equipment
- assess workplace layouts and implement any necessary alterations to make the environment a safer one in which to work
- provide the safest possible environments and facilities
- have appropriate insurance and workers compensation insurance for all employees
What Does the WHS Act Require Employees To Do?
The WHS requires that employees assist in maintaining a safe work environment and abide by the rules established by their company. This includes the following:
- complying with all instructions given by the workplace for health and safety
- use any provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and be properly trained on how to use and wear it
- not recklessly interfere with any sort of machinery or misuse any sort of equipment provided for health and safety at the workplace
- not place others at risk
- not injure themselves
WHS Act Requirements May Vary:
Depending on which state or territory you reside in there may be various regulations or legislations that businesses in that are required to meet. It’s important to find any WHS Act authority or in your state or territory and stay up-to-date with the laws and regulations that you are required to practice.
Also, please note that while programs like Safe Work Australia lead national efforts to help create safe work environments and policies that ensure worker safety, they do not regulate or enforce any WHS regulation or action. Safe Work Australia, however, do provide valuable tools for workplace safety such as educational training for employees, advice on safe workplace practices, and ways to incorporate safe business practices into everyday business operations and management.
Also, remember that each industry has it’s own specific standards for workplace and public safety and health concerns. For example, mining companies will be held to different standards than construction companies or a technological startup will be held to yet different regulations. It’s up to the individual company to know the WHS Act rules and regulations in their industry and abide by them.
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