WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE ACT?
The work place health and safety obligations you owe others and the nature of
any such obligations will depend upon your relationship with the other relevant
As an employer you are obliged to ensure the workplace health and safety of
each of the employer’s workers at work. An employer is also obliged to ensure
the manner in which the employer conducts business does not affect the workplace
health and safety of the employer or others.
Person in control of a work place
Briefly stated, if you are a person in control of a workplace, you are
obliged to minimise the risk of injury or illness to persons at the workplace.
The obligation extends to the manner in which work is conducted at the work
place, the method of accessing the workplace and the way in which plant or
substances are used at the work place.
As a worker you have obligations to comply with your employer’s workplace
health and safety instructions and to use protective equipment provided by the
employer. Further, a worker must not to wilfully or recklessly interfere with or
misuse workplace health and safety equipment or wilfully injure or expose to
injury any person, including himself or herself, at the workplace.
A principal contractor for a construction workplace is, in summary, obliged:
- generally to ensure workplace health and safety in the workplace, and assist an
employer or self-employed person to discharge his or her workplace health and
- not to expose others to risks from things or hazards at the work place for
which no other person owes a workplace health and safety obligation;
- to ensure that workplace activities at the workplace are safe and without
risk of injury or illness to members of the public at or near the workplace;
- to provide safeguards and take safety measures prescribed under a regulation;
- to ensure an employer or self-employed person discharges his or her workplace
health and safety obligation;
- if an employer or self-employed person is not complying with a workplace
health and safety obligation, direct that person to do so; and
- if an employer or self employed person fails to comply with the above
mentioned direction, further direct the employer or self employed person to stop
work until that person agrees to comply with his or her obligations.
Persons concerned with certain plant or equipment at a work place
Manufacturers, designers, importers or suppliers of certain plant or
substances for use at certain work places all have work place health and safety
obligations. If you are within one or more of these classes of people, you may
- to ensure the relevant plant or substance is designed and constructed so as
to be safe for use;
- to ensure the relevant plant or substance has undergone appropriate testing
- ensure appropriate information about the safe use of the plant or substance
is available; and
- to take the action the chief executive reasonably requires to prevent the use
of unsafe plant or substance (eg recall a dangerously defective power tool).
If you own, erect or install plant at certain work places you also have work
place health and safety obligations. If you own certain plant, you have an
obligation to ensure such plant is maintained in a safe condition so that it is
safe when used properly. If you erect or install certain plant, you have an
obligation to do so safely and also to ensure that it is erected or installed so
that it is safe when used properly.
Other persons at work places
If you do not fall within any of the preceding classes of person who have
specific work place health and safety obligations you have general obligations
at a workplace. If you are at a work place you are obliged to comply with an
employer’s workplace health and safety instructions. Further, a person at a
workplace must not wilfully or recklessly interfere with or misuse workplace
health and safety equipment or wilfully injure or expose to injury any person,
including himself or herself, at the workplace.
REGULATIONS AND ADVISORY STANDARDS
The government, through the Governor in Council, may make regulations in
order to minimise or prohibit exposure to risk. These regulations, for legal
purposes, form part of the Act.
Further, the relevant government minister may make advisory standards and
industry codes of practice for the purpose of managing the exposure work place
health and safety risks. You are entitled to inspect, during normal business
hours codes of practice, which must be made available by the relevant government
minister without charge.
It is important that you are aware of any regulations or codes of practice
which might impact upon the manner in which you conduct your work.
Unfortunately, due to the vast range of different fields of work it is
impossible to deal with the relevant regulations and codes applicable to each
person. Therefore you should consult your union, make inquiries with the
government or consult a lawyer to determine exactly how your obligations may
have been affected by administrative acts of the government.
If an employer employs 30 workers or more, the employer is required to
appoint a workplace health and safety officer (a safety officer). A person can
only be appointed a safety officer if the person holds a certificate of
qualification prescribed by the regulations.
A principal contractor for a construction workplace also must appoint a
safety officer in certain circumstances. That is, a safety officer must be
appointed if 30 or more persons work at the workplace during any 24 hour period
or if the principal contractor has built at least 30 domestic premises during
the previous financial year. Also, the regulations can provide for circumstances
in which a principal contractor must appoint a safety officer.
An employer or principal contractor may commit an offence by not complying
with the provisions of the Act regarding safety officers. An employer or
principal contractor is required to help safety officers. If you are an employer
or principal contractor who has appointed a safety officer, you must:
- display a notice advising the identity of the safety officer for the
- provide to the safety officer information in your possession about workplace
health and safety risks;
- include the safety officer at interviews with a worker about workplace health
- consult the safety officer on any proposed changes which may affect workplace
health and safety at the workplace; and
- help the safety officer to seek appropriate advice on issues that affect, or
may affect, workplace health and safety at the workplace.
If you are a safety officer, you have a number of functions, including:
- conducting inspections and or investigations at the workplace;
- reporting to the employer or principal contractor regarding workplace health
and safety practices and the overall state of work place health and safety;
- establishing appropriate educational programs;
- assisting inspectors to perform their duties; and
- reporting to the employer or principal contractor any work injury, work
caused illness, dangerous event or immediate risk to workplace health or safety
at the workplace.
This Information Outline is provided courtesy of Hall Payne Lawyers who are
experienced in this area of law. They are located at Level 9, 344 Queen Street,
Brisbane, QLD 4000 or call them on (07) 3221-2044 if you would like more
information on this legal topic, or you wish to obtain formal advice regarding
Hall Payne Lawyers are an established Queensland firm practicing in the areas
of employment law (unfair dismissal etc), accident compensation (WorkCover,
motor vehicle accident, personal injuries), anti-discrimination &
harassment, consumer law, family law, wills & estates, criminal law and
conveyancing. Hall Payne Lawyers are a founding member of the Australia-wide