What your employer must do to keep you safe

What your employer must do to keep you safe

What your employer must do to keep you safe by Alison and Jillian Barrett.  Available from <http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/workplace-safety-what-your-employer-must-do-to-keep-you-safe-20161021-gs7t15.html>. [

It is shocking to think that another 60 Australian workers may die doing their job before we open our presents on Christmas morning.

Last year 195 people were killed in workplace accidents in Australia, which is roughly the annual average and, already in 2016, 132 have not gone home after a day on the job.

October is National Safe Work Month and while it is a timely reminder to make sure that workplace safety is front-of mind, we have still seen fatalities, including two in the same tragic incident in Queensland in the past few weeks.

So what responsibilities does your employer have to keep you safe at work and ensure you make it home to your family each day?

All employers have a duty to provide their workers with a safe system of work.

This means ensuring that: appropriate training is provided; appropriate and maintained equipment, tools and machinery is provided; and the worker is not exposed to a preventable risk of injury.

Each state has its own occupational health and safety laws that place specific obligations on companies to provide a safe workplace, with different codes of conduct for various industries with specific directives about what that means. Australian standards can also apply to regulate a workplace and the work performed.

Here's what should you do if you think something is unsafe:

  • report it, preferably in writing, to a supervisor;
  • discuss the issue with your trade union;
  • refuse to do the task, particularly if you think there's an imminent risk to your health and safety;
  • contact workplace health and safety (variously called WorkSafe, SafeWork or Workplace Health and Safety Office in different states).

About 90,000 claims are lodged in the workers' compensation system in Queensland each year. More than 100,000 are lodged in NSW, about 37,000 in Western Australia and over 26,000 in Victoria.

In Queensland, a person or company can be fined for a breach of the law. If an action is taken that places a person at risk of injury, illness or death, and steps are not taken to avoid it or there is a failure to comply with the law then the highest penalty is $3 million for a corporation, $600,000 or five years' jail for an individual conducting a business, and $300,000 or five years' jail for an individual.

It may surprise you, however, that a union can be fined more for causing a disruption on a worksite over a safety breach than the employer would be fined if someone died.

Where someone is injured at work they may be entitled to lodge a workers' compensation claim for payment of time of work, medical treatment and other expenses.

What your employer must do to keep you safe by Alison and Jillian Barrett.  Available from <http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/workplace-safety-what-your-employer-must-do-to-keep-you-safe-20161021-gs7t15.html>. [

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