Workplace health and safety

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Key Points

  • every person has the right to work in a safe environment
  • as an employee you are also responsible for working in a safe manner
  • every employee is protected by workers compensation.

What is workplace health & safety (WHS)?

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), relates to the health, safety, and wellbeing of workers and workplaces.

Safe Work Australia is the national government body responsible for the development, evaluation, and revision of WHS and workers compensation policies.

In Australia, each State and Territory has their own WHS laws and workers compensation policies.

Each State and Territory also has a regulator to enforce these laws and policies. Find your regulator.

Your WHS rights & responsibilities

WHS policies are in place to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of workers.

They reduce workplace hazards and prevent work related injury, illness, and fatalities.

Your rights as an employee include:

  • access to a safe work environment
  • access to safe machinery and equipment
  • access to necessary safety equipment and training
  • access to information related to hazards and risks
  • access to WHS training, information and supervision
  • the right to refuse to perform an unsafe task, or work in an unsafe environment
  • the right to speak up about your WHS rights
  • the right to receive workers compensation for a work-related injury or illness.

Your responsibilities as an employee include:

  • working in a safe manner
  • following WHS policies and procedures
  • not using machinery or equipment you are not licensed or qualified to use them
  • using equipment in a safe manner
  • reporting injuries or incidences
  • reporting unsafe or hazardous environments.

To learn more, SafeWork Australia have created a fact sheet about working safely.

Your responsibilities as an employer or self-employed person include:

  • provide a safe work environment
  • provide access to safe machinery and equipment
  • provide access to necessary safety equipment and training
  • provide access to information related to hazards and risks
  • provide access to WHS training, information and supervision
  • monitor the health of your employees.

Safe Work Australia have created:

Workers’ compensation

In Australia, workers compensation is a type of mandatory insurance that all employers are required to have. This is to protect themselves and their employees for work related injuries and illness.

Workers’ compensation may provide financial assistance related to:

  • medical and hospital costs
  • income support due to loss of income
  • lump sum payment if you are permanently impaired
  • funeral or death benefits if you die because of a work-related injury or illness.

Volunteers are generally not covered by workers compensation, unless in specific circumstances. It is the responsibility of the organisation to purchase insurance to protect their volunteers against personal injury.

See Safe Work Australia for more information about workers’ compensation coverage for volunteers

Helpful links

If you’re a volunteer, Safe Work Australia has created a factsheet about WHS and volunteering.

Organisational policies and procedures for risk management

Risk management is an important part of WHS. It involves identifying and mitigating risks in the workplace to reduce the severity and risk of harm caused to a person.

Every workplace will have policies and procedures that outline the steps that the company and the employees will take to reduce the risk of injury.

These tell the employee what their safety responsibilities are when doing their job. Also, what their workplace will do to create a safe working environment.

Examples include:

  • incident reporting procedures
  • plans for emergencies or accidents
  • records of when equipment is maintained and repaired.

Case story

Mary works in a warehouse. One day, they had minimal staff on shift and they were behind on picking the days orders. Her co-worker asked her to drive the forklift to get a pallet from the racking. However, Mary doesn’t have a forklift license. So, she tells her co-worker that she is not allowed due to WHS laws and helps find another worker to drive the forklift.

Story description

Real Life Story

Three years ago, I had a workplace accident when using a ladder. I misplaced my foot and slipped and fell, hitting my head on the ground. My supervisor called an ambulance and sent me to hospital to be checked over. Thankfully I was fine, except for a sprained ankle. I was worried, about how I would afford the ambulance bill, because I don’t have ambulance cover. But because the incident happened at work, workers compensation paid for the bill.