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The WHS Act created legislation and regulations to help increase Workplace Health and Safety in Australia. With these guidelines, employers have certain rights and responsibilities, which can be confusing for businesses to keep track of.

Failure to comply with Work Health and Safety legislation can result in civil and criminal penalties not to mention increases the risk of workplace hazards. To avoid these issues, let’s explore the WHS rights and responsibilities of employers and employees in more detail.

What Are the Responsibilities of the Employer?

Among the most important responsibilities is the primary duty of care. Employers must observe all legal requirements for giving employees safe and healthy work. It is also a requirement to investigate work hazard reports and take corrective actions.

Who is responsible for the primary duty of care? The WHS responsibilities apply to all employers and businesses, which includes any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).

All businesses and PCBUs have legal obligations. Besides the primary duty of care, businesses must take appropriate steps to manage risks and hazards. They also need to review their health and safety programs.

The WHS responsibilities of employers include a wide range of requirements to help ensure a safe work site. Some of the core responsibilities include:

  • Providing necessary health and safety instruction, supervision & training
  • Ensuring all staff understands their roles and responsibilities
  • Providing necessary protective gear and equipment
  • Consulting with staff regarding decisions that impact workplace safety
  • Maintaining a register of all workplace injuries
  • Offering return to work programs for injured workers

Employers also need to use warning signs, labels, or colour codes to warn employees of possible hazards. When an accident occurs, the employer must report hospitalizations and maintain records of the injuries.

These are not just guidelines, the Government requires businesses to offer a safe environment. For example, the WHS Act recommends that employers avoid allowing employees to work from heights unless risks are mitigated. If working from heights is required, specific risk assessment and mitigation steps need to be completed.

What Are the Rights of the Employer?

Employers have a responsibility to provide safe working conditions. However, employers also have rights.

In Australia, employers have the right to hire and dismiss workers providing they are following proper procedures. Employers also have the right to expect reasonable work performance from their staff.

The WHS Act covers more employee rights compared to employer rights. Understanding the rights of your employees also helps provide a better understanding of your responsibilities. All employees have the right to:

  • A safe work environment
  • Access to information related to potential hazards
  • Request changes to avoid potential hazards
  • Participate in workplace inspections
  • Not receive discrimination for exercising work health and safety rights
  • Refuse work that puts the employee in danger
  • Receive necessary training for working in dangerous conditions

This is just a small list of the rights of employees. Employers have fewer rights and a lot more responsibilities, including developing and implementing effective WHS policies.

What Are WHS Policies and Procedures?

The Work Health and Safety Act includes a variety of requirements, including establishing policies and procedures to comply with the Act.
Each business needs to develop a WHS policy for any type of work that involves potential hazards. For example, you may need to develop a policy for working in confined spaces.

The steps outlined in the policies often include detailed information instruction guidelines for developing risk management processes. These processes may also include safety management systems.

A safe system of work is a procedure or policy that you create to help minimise risks. It often includes a detailed risk assessment, which can help create awareness of the risks and identify who may be at risk.

After completing a risk assessment, employers have a duty to consult with staff to increase awareness. With safe systems of work, it also becomes easier for businesses to comply with their safety policies and procedures.

How can you learn more about effective health and safety management solutions? Employers should enrol the necessary staff in the appropriate training programs, such as a HSR Training Course.

Safe work practices are not designed to make life difficult for businesses. The policies and procedures are intended to provide clear instructions for maintaining a safe working environment.

If you want to comply with the laws, ensure that your staff is up to date with the latest regulations and codes of practice as well as receive regular training.

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