Is Workplace Health and Safety part of your company culture? Michelle Farrar-Eagles
Many businesses either turn a blind eye to WHS (Workplace Health & Safety) usually sadly until an accident occurs or believe by meeting once a month they are ticking the compliance box. In my opinion, WHS needs to be embedded into a company culture. Anyone and everyone who works in a business owes a duty of care to themselves and each other to ensure their place of work is safe.
So, how do you go about ensuring WHS is part of your company culture? By leading for example. Education of the key stakeholders for any organization is essential.
With WHS laws undergoing their biggest overhaul with the introduction of national harmonised legislation on 1 Jan 2012, do you understand your obligations?
The new model Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Laws) came into effect on 1 Jan 2012. Essentially what this means is that the previous state based laws have now been replaced by a uniform consistent legislation ie: for NSW, Qld, NT with VIC and WA yet to adopt the laws.
In a nutshell the most important areas for businesses to note are:
1. New roles and responsibilities for employers – the term Employer has been replaced with the acronym PCBU (Persons conducting a business or undertaking with others). PCBU can be an entity, partnership, sole trader or Officer.
2. New wording and definition changes under WHS
3. Critical changes in relation to what constitutes consultation
4. Changes to rights of entry by unions
5. New penalties for breaches of WHS
6. New roles and responsibilities for health and safety reps
Under the new laws, PCBU’s and Officers could be personally liable for up to $600,000 in fines and or/ five years imprisonment if they recklessly breach their duty and it results in or exposes a person to serious harm. Company Directors / Officers and PCBU’s all have a due diligence to ensure that their business complies with its safety obligations.
Essentially what this means is officers or PCBU’s could be liable without an incident or accident even occurring. Under the new legislation, officers must take reasonable steps to:
Acquire and keep up to date with knowledge of WHS matters and requirements.
Gain a solid understanding of the potential hazards and risks associated with operating a business.
Ensure the business has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding safety incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way to that information.
Ensure that the business has and implements processes for complying with its obligations under the new laws including:
- reporting notifiable incidents
- consulting with workers
- ensuring compliance with notices issued
- ensuring training of workers about health and safety
- ensure that Health & Safety Reps receive their training.
The bottom line is that there needs to be a proactive approach by businesses when it comes to complying with safety standards.
A few tips to get you started to ensure you're on the right track -
1. Make a decision about who is going to be responsible for WHS in your Organisation? Remember if you are the PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) you can NOT delegate your liability - however you can appoint someone to assist with compliance.
2. Do a WHS audit of your business under the new requirements to see areas of risk/exposure?
3. Review policies and processes to ensure they capture your requirements under new WHS Laws.
4. Ensure your employees understand how the new changes to laws and definitions that affect them and arrange a time to communicate these changes to the team in a culture appropriate way so they embrace WHS and don't look at it as a chore!
5. If you’d like to know more or are unsure as to whether your WHS is up to scratch, drop us a line or give us a call.
Blog prepared by The People Playground.
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