occupational health and safety

An employer has a duty in the workplace to take all reasonably practicable measures to ensure that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it, are safe.  Duties also apply regarding workplace infrastructure, equipment and materials.

An employer has a duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that workers and others are not exposed to risks to health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer’s business.  What is “reasonably practicable” is decided with regard to:

  • the likelihood that the risk could result in injury;
  • the seriousness of any injury that could result from realisation of the risk;
  • the availability, suitability, effectiveness and cost of the measures; and
  • any other relevant factors

To discharge duty of care, you need to do a number of things including identifying hazards and risks and determine risk management measures in a systematic way.

Occupational Health and Safety regulators (NT WorkSafe) have wide investigative powers.  The Regulator may authorise an officer to enter a workplace at short notice if the Regulator believes that there is an urgent requirement for the Officer to do so, either to investigate a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation or to preserve evidence of a contravention of the legislation.

The officers are entitled to:

  • enter the workplace and investigate an incident
  • take and remove samples from the workplace
  • demand reasonable assistance from an employer to help their enquiries

The regulator and his officers may issue a range of enforcement options such as:

  • improvement notices
  • prohibition notices
  • stop work notices
  • injunction and criminal enforcement

It is advisable for businesses to set up their own individual workplace safety systems rather than wait for accidents to occur or penalties to be issued.  An employer should formulate a personal system of safety, planning and management.  This has a three-fold benefit for the employer in that:

  • it will hopefully achieve compliance with the objectives identified by the legislation and regulations thereby minimising the risk and reducing accidents which is the most effective way to avoid prosecution
  • the system, particularly if in writing, will demonstrate compliance with the duties; and
  • if the system does fall short of compliance then the system will provided good evidence to be used in mitigation of penalty.

The company policy should be in writing and should commence by identifying all relevant legislation, regulations, codes of practice and Australian standards which are relevant to the nature of the work performed by the employer.

Roussos Legal Advisory can assist with:

  • compliance with legislation
  • risk management
  • defending you against prosecutions