In brief:

During National Safe Work Month this October, Colin Biggers & Paisley's employment and safety team will be focusing on how employers and PCBUs can create and maintain safe workplaces. The theme of week 3 of National Safe Work Month is "working together to support all workers". In this article, we explore some of the basic concepts of workplace health and safety, and steps employers can take to support their workers.

A reminder - What duties do employers owe?

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (Model Laws) imposes fundamental duties upon persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to manage work health and safety (WHS) risks. Many states and territories have since implemented legislation that reflects the duties under the Model Laws, whereas others have retained their own frameworks which are largely based on the same principles.

Fundamentally, under both federal and state legislation PCBUs have a primary duty to ensure the safety of workers, contractors and people who are present in the workplace. In order to fulfill this duty, PCBUs are required to provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, a workplace that is without risks to health and safety. 

Vulnerable workers

When designing and developing safe systems of work, it is important for PCBUs to consider the needs of all workers. This is particularly important when certain demographics of workers may be more vulnerable to work-related injuries than others.

Certain workers from vulnerable demographics are more likely to suffer a work-related injury. These vulnerable demographics include:

  • Workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds;

  • Workers who work in remote and isolated locations; and

  • Workers in labour hire arrangements (due to uncertainty about who is responsible for their health and safety in the workplace).

When developing safe systems of work PCBUs should ensure that the needs and interests of vulnerable workers are considered so that safe work systems are available to the entirety of their workforce.

Working together

In order to implement safe work systems for all workers, PCBUs should engage with vulnerable workers throughout the consultation phase and beyond.

To minimise exposure to risks and ensure a safe workplace, PCBUs can take the following actions:

  • Specifically focus on risks that arise out of vulnerable demographics of the workforce;

  • Consult with vulnerable workers to ensure that all potential risks are canvassed;

  • Monitor and continually engage with vulnerable workers to review the risks frequently; and

  • Implement specific policies and procedures that relate to vulnerable workers.

By proactively managing risks and taking necessary precautions PCBUs can ensure they are providing a safe workplace for their workers and are meeting their statutory obligations.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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