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OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY - EMPLOYEE
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 parties.
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:
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 have obligations:
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:
If you are a safety officer, you have a number of functions, including:
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 your situation.
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 PeopleLaw group.
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