Welcome to Part 9 of “What to include in an Employee Handbook”. Here, we will be discussing the importance of including provisions relating to workplace, health and safety, and the various obligations of both employers and employees under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth).

Workplace Health and Safety

First of all, the Employee Handbook should explain that the Business is committed to complying with its obligations under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth). This includes providing a healthy and safe workplace for all employees, contractors and visitors to the workplace, protecting the employees from injury and illness, promoting their welfare and continually improving the Business’ control over workplace injury and illness.

Also indicate how the Business will take reasonable steps to identify, control, protect against and eliminate risks to the health, welfare and safety of its employees, contractors and visitors to the Business’ workplace. These goals are usually achieved by providing adequate information and training to employees as part of the commitment to providing a healthy and safe workplace.

Just as supervisors and managers are accountable for the health and safety of employees who report to them, it is equally important to ensure the Employee Handbook explains that the employees are also responsible for one another.

Obligations of the Business

The Employee Handbook should explain the various obligations of the Business in ensuring the health, safety and welfare of its employees, contractors and visitors to its workplace by providing a healthy and safe workplace for its employees, contractors and visitors.

The aim is to protect staff from and against injury and illness and to promote their welfare by doing the following:

  • Appoint a Workplace Health and Safety Officer who will be responsible for ensuring that the Business complies with its obligations under workplace health and safety legislation;
  • Take reasonable steps to identify, control, protect against and eliminate risks to the health, welfare and safety of its employees, contractors and visitors to the Business’s workplace (including risks from the premises, plant or substances used or kept on the premises, work systems and procedures);
  • Ensure that the workplace is safe and accessible at all times;
  • Provide appropriate and adequate training to all employees in relation to workplace health and safety;
  • Provide safety equipment to employees that is appropriate based on the duties undertaken by them;
  • Provide amenities, sufficient and safe working space, first aid facilities, and for emergencies;
  • Ensure there is adequate lighting to enable employees to work safely and access to ventilation and heating;
  • Control noise;
  • Control risks associated with building maintenance, fire and explosions, manual handling, injury from electricity, falling or falling objects;
  • Ensure that employees are adequately and properly supervised by suitably experienced managers and supervisors;
  • Undertake risk assessments from time to time and determining, in consultation with those employees who are directly affected by the relevant risks, how to manage any risks identified;
  • Consult with its employees (in accordance with any processes and procedures determined by the Business from time to time) in relation to matters that affect workplace health and safety so that they may contribute to decisions made by the Business in relation to their health, safety and welfare;
  • Continue monitoring the workplace (in particular when new plant and equipment is installed, before hazardous substances are introduced to the workplace or before any change in work practices) to identify hazards that have the potential to harm employees, contractors and visitors to the workplace;
  • Actively respond to incidents; and
  • Keep and maintain records.

If you are unsure what your Business’ obligations are under workplace health and safety legislation, speak with an employment lawyer today.

Obligations of Staff

Although it is the Business that must comply with its obligations, it is the Staff that can assist the Business in complying with its legal obligations so far as is possible. Your Employee Handbook should give some examples of ways in which they are expected to help the Business remain compliant. For example, Staff should be encouraged to assist the Business by:

  • Taking reasonable care while at work to protect others who may be affected by their actions;
  • Participating in any workplace health and safety training organised by the Business from time to time;
  • Complying with directions given by the Business and/or its workplace health and safety representatives;
  • Reporting incidents and hazards that may threaten the health and safety of others in the workplace;
  • Not interfering with or misusing anything provided by the Business in the interests of workplace health, safety and welfare;
  • Not hindering or obstructing any person from aiding another person who is injured in the workplace.

Supervisors, Managers and Directors

Supervisors and managers must comply with their individual obligations as employees of the Business, and are accountable for the health and safety of employees who report to them. Any director, supervisor or manager of the Business may be liable to penalties if the Business does not comply with its obligations under workplace health and safety legislation on the basis that the director has aided and abetted the non-compliance. Directors, supervisors and managers must therefore undertake due diligence to prevent contraventions of the law in relation to areas over which they exert influence or have control.

Conclusion

If you are unaware of your obligations under workplace, health and safety laws in Australia, speak with an employment lawyer about including them in your Employee Handbook. For assistance in drafting your Employee Handbook, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

Lachlan McKnight

Next Steps

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