Workplace Health Safety for Employees

Every worker has a right to expect their workplace is a safe environment.

What you need to know about Workplace Health and Safety as an Employee

Every worker has a right to expect their workplace is a safe environment.

Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the WHS Act) provides a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work.

These include:

  • employees;
  • contractors;
  • subcontractors;
  • outworkers;
  • apprentices and trainees;
  • work experience students;
  • volunteers;
  • employers who perform work;
  • members of the general public (visitors to the workplace, etc).

Your employer has legal obligations regarding workplace health and safety, which vary according to the industry and the circumstances in which the business operates. These responsibilities mean they must assess and mitigate any risks that may impact the health, safety or welfare of all those attending your workplace.

Failure to comply with relevant legislation or a breach of a workplace’s Code of Practice on WHS can result in severe penalties for an employer, including terms of imprisonment for the most serious breaches such as industrial manslaughter, through to large fines and on-the-spot fines.

What are your WHS responsibilities as an employee?

Employees also have responsibilities under the WHS Act to ensure a safe work environment.

These include:

  • Complying with instructions given for work health and safety;
  • using any provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and being properly trained in how to use it;
  • not wilfully or recklessly interfering with or misusing anything provided for work health and safety at the workplace;
  • not wilfully placing others at risk;
  • not wilfully injuring themselves.

Under the provisions of the WHS Act, employers are also required to consult with employees to:

  • Provide them with relevant safety information;
  • give them a reasonable opportunity to express their views;
  • raise WHS matters;
  • contribute to decision making on identifying hazards and assessing risks; making decisions about ways to eliminate risks; decisions regarding adequacy of facilities; proposed changes that may affect health and safety; decisions on health and safety procedures; an issue resolution processes.

The Act requires all business owners to develop a resolution process in consultation with their workers where a work health and safety issue arises. If no process is developed, the legislation sets out a default process. The parties must make reasonable efforts to achieve resolution of the issue in accordance with the agreed or default procedure.

If the issue remains unresolved, either party may ask the regulator to appoint an inspector to attend the workplace to assist. If after 24 hours the dispute remains unresolved, the matter can be referred to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) for resolution.

What should you do if you’re injured at work?

If you are injured at work, you can make an application to WorkCover for workers’ compensation. If you believe your injury was due to a breach of the company’s WHS policies, and are alleging negligence on the part of your employer, you can potentially pursue a common law claim for compensatory damages.

Your employer cannot fire you or threaten to fire you for making a workers’ compensation claim or reporting a workplace injury. In Queensland, your employer cannot fire you within 12 months after an injury at work, solely because your injury prevents you from working.

Your employer must also take reasonable steps to provide rehabilitation and suitable work duties that you are able to do. However, if your illness or incapacity is not because of a workplace injury and not the subject of a WorkCover claim, then your employer may be able to let you go you if you are unable to do your job properly.

If any of the issues above are a concern for you as an employee, considered legal advice might be required. Contact Peters Bosel Lawyers for experienced, expert guidance on all of the work health and safety issues addressed in this article.

Contact Peters Bosel Lawyers for experienced, expert guidance on all of the work health and safety issues.

Contact our team today.