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OHS in WA: Laws & Obligations

New "workplace health and safety" (WHS) laws are in the process of final review in WA and will apply to small business, sole traders and not-for-profit organisations, even if you do not have direct employees. Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act it is the Employers duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all persons at their work site and to provide a safe working environment. The good news is that WA businesses still have time to evaluate their WHS standards to ensure they are in compliance when the new laws come into effect.


Duty of Care: Who, What, When, Where and Why of Work Health and Safety

Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act it is the Employer’s / PCBU’s Duty of Care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all persons at the work site and to provide a safe working environment.

As an Employer your Duty of Care is extended to anyone at your workplace, even if they do not work for you or with you. This also includes other sites that your workers are working on, if they leave a site in an unsafe condition and someone is hurt then it comes back to you as an Employer.

It is your Duty of Care to ensure that your workers are trained and are aware of their surroundings especially when working at another site.

You will always be held responsible and accountable for the health and safety risks that arise from conducting your business, including risks that your workers create.

This was demonstrated when a plumbing company sent a team of plumbers to a shopping centre to fix a water leak within a pit in a service corridor. Upon completion of the work the plumbers forgot to replace the lid on the pit. Later that day a worker from another company accessed the service corridor and fell into the uncovered pit and sustained back, knee, arm and rib injuries.

The plumbing company was fined $10,000 for failing to ensure the health and safety of the worker by neglecting to replace the lid on the pit.

This incident could have been avoided if the plumbing company had safe systems of work in place. The plumbing company should have had simple checklists for each job which go through the task that they are about to undertake and another for the completion of the job.

A straightforward solution to the problem would have been to ensure barriers are place around open pits. If this had occurred on completion of the job it would have prompted them to replace the lid on the pit before removing the barrier.

As always this also comes back to the safety culture of the business, if you as an employer embrace safety and encourage your workers to be proactive regarding safety then simple things like forgetting to put a lid on a pit won’t happen as the workers will be aware of the safety aspects of their operations.