Everyone plays a role in workplace safety
Reviewed by Bridie Tamayo, Head of Injury Prevention
Who is responsible for a safe working environment, and once established, how do you maintain it? The truth is that while employers are responsible for providing workers with a safe work environment, everyone – from managers to supervisors, to general employees – plays a role in safety. The onus is on all workers to meet the relevant health and safety expectations and goals. Like many things in life, it truly is a group effort.
But what are the responsibilities of the employer and the employee, respectively, and how should organisations work to create a safety-first culture?
What are the responsibilities of the business or employer?
If you are an employer or a business owner, you have a legal responsibility (known as your primary duty of care) as stated in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. This means you must provide a safe work environment, by adhering to the following guidelines:
- Ensure safe use, handling and storage of all machinery, structures, and substances.
- Follow the recommended upkeep and maintenance protocols at an acceptable standard.
- Provide your workers with all the information they need to complete their work safely, including implementing appropriate training, instruction, or supervision.
- Oversee worker’s health and workplace conditions regularly.
- Keep an injury register, ensuring that it is up to date.
- Have a workers’ compensation policy in place, as well as a return-to-work plan1.
By ensuring these measures are established, you are meeting your duty of care as an organisation or employer.
How do you ensure a safe work environment?
When we talk about employee safety, this doesn’t simply refer to an employee’s physical wellbeing; it also refers to psychological safety. So far, we have outlined what a business or an employer can do to ensure that workers are able to physically complete their work at a safe level. However, there are measures that you can set up to ensure a safe work environment where employees feel valued, heard, and proud to be representing your business.
As an employer, you have a legal responsibility under the Fair Work Act 2009 to provide a safe workplace. Since you have a duty of care for your employees’ health and wellbeing while at work, should bullying or discrimination occur in the workplace, you will not be meeting this responsibility. Read more about anti-discrimination laws here.
Here are other examples of how to achieve a safe workplace for all:
- Ensure that professional development and further learning and safety training are supported and encouraged.
- Obstacles that negatively impact employees’ mental health should be identified and removed as swiftly as possible.
- Diversity should be viewed as an advantage – as something that will benefit your business.
- Focus on retaining employees. When staff turnover is high, this can lead to others feeling overworked, leading to low morale.
- Ensure that your workers feel like important, productive members of the team. No matter what level your employees are at, they should feel like their contribution is valued.
- Oversee that the conduct of your business does not harm others. This includes visitors, volunteers (who are not classified as employees), the public and other contractors or workers.
- You may also have obligations to meet when it comes to licensing, registration, and certification requirements and more.
What are the safety responsibilities of the employee?
While employers are required to provide a safe work environment, employees also play a key role in safety. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employees must:
- Take reasonable care for their own health and safety in the workplace, as well as the health and safety of others who may be affected by what they do, or what they fail to do.
- Cooperate with their employer about any task they complete, to ensure it complies with the OHS Act or Regulations. This may mean using equipment according to the instructions or protocols, following safe work practices and attending mandatory safety training or meetings.
- Employees must not intentionally interfere with or misuse any equipment or tools in a reckless manner.
- Employees must always put health, safety, and welfare first.
How can employees collaborate with employers to maintain a safe working environment?
When it comes to workplace safety standards, it is a two-way street. This means that both employers and employees need to play their part to keep safety at the forefront of it all.
Here are some ways that employees and employers can work together to ensure a safe working environment that benefits everyone:
- Employees should bring workplace hazards to the attention of coworkers, supervisors, employers and/or the relevant health and safety committees. However, for this to occur, employees need to know that their concerns will be heard. It is up to the employers to listen and to take steps to rectify the safety issues, so employees feel comfortable bringing these concerns to their attention in the first place.
- To meet their health and safety responsibilities, employers can implement procedures, work practices, and provide information, training, and supervision. Employees must cooperate with their employer’s efforts by adhering to these safety policies and procedures and attend the relevant training when requested.
- As part of their duty of care, employers are required to provide the correct safety equipment. It is then up to the employee to use or wear this equipment. This might mean the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) like work safety boots, or high-visibility vests or hard hats when appropriate.
These are just a few examples of how employees and employers can work together to create and maintain a safety-first workplace environment. Visit the Bodycare website for more information.
Is a safe workplace a happy workplace?
OHS is a serious business. By creating and maintaining a safe and secure workplace environment for all, you are bound to see a noticeable increase in employee productivity and satisfaction, thereby leading to better outcomes for all.
When it comes to creating a positive safety-first work culture, we know that education and health and safety training are crucial. As one of Australia’s leading providers of occupational health services and solutions, it is our mandate to assist businesses in building healthy and resilient workforces by providing holistic occupational health services that are underpinned by industry-leading technology and software systems.
If you’re searching for interactive occupational health and safety training courses that are designed to educate and upskill organisations, our highly skilled team is trained to deliver them, in line with the relevant health and safety policies. Contact us today to learn more.