In Australia, workplace health and safety is of paramount importance to both employers and employees. If your workplace breaches these regulations, you may be eligible for compensation.
What is workplace health and safety?
Workplace health and safety refers to the rights and obligations of both employers and employees in the workplace. In Victoria, the primary piece of legislation is the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), which sets out obligations for both employers and employees to ensure the health of both parties.
What are the main objectives of the Occupational Health and Safety Act?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act seeks to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and other people at work. It also aims to ensure that the health and safety of the public is not put at risk by work activities.
Why is workplace health and safety important?
Workplace health and safety ensures the health of employers, employees, visitors and customers. It falls under the duty of care for employers to protect their employees and has benefits for both the company and the worker.
What are the types of hazards in the workplace?
There are six categories of major workplace hazards. These are:
· Biological (eg. Blood, mould, bacteria, viruses)
· Chemical (eg. Fumes, pesticides)
· Physical (eg. Radiation, temperature extremes, loud noise)
· Safety (eg. Electrical hazards, anything that can cause you to trip/fall)
· Ergonomic (eg. Improperly adjusted chairs, frequent lifting, poor posture)
· Psychosocial (eg. Workplace violence, sexual harassment)
All of these can have adverse effects on workers, both physical and psychological.
Employers have a duty to ensure the health of workers through a work environment that is free of these hazards.
How do you ensure health and safety in the workplace?
To ensure that your workplace is complying to work health and safety standards and regulations, training your staff is important, as well as appointing an HSR. Regular inspections are also a good way to ensure that your workplace is at the regulatory standard.
What is my personal responsibility with work health and safety?
Many people do not know that employees also have responsibilities regarding work health and safety.
Employees are required to abide by work health and safety rules and report any discrepancies if they are experienced.
Employees have the responsibility to take care of their own health and safety, and the health and safety of persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions.
Employees can be terminated for not abiding by OHS policies or cooperating with their employers with respect to these requirements.
Who is generally responsible for a place of work’s health and safety?
Both employers and employees have responsibilities regarding work health and safety.
Employers are required to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and free of risks to health, as far as is reasonably practicable. They are required to follow up on any risks to work health such as replacing faulty equipment.
Employees are required to abide by work health and safety rules, and report any discrepancies if they are experienced.
What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides benefits to workers who suffer an injury or develop a medical condition in the course of, or as a result of, their employment.
These injuries might include suffering an injury at work on a specific day or developing a medical condition over a period of time due to the nature of the work performed.
Workers’ compensation is often referred to as WorkCover.
Workers’ compensation claims are managed by a number of insurance companies on behalf of the Victorian WorkCover Authority, also often referred to as WorkSafe.
How do I get compensation for a work injury?
Compensation for a work injury is accessed by lodging a Workers Injury Claim Form. An injured worker is required to lodge the claim form with their employer as soon as practicable after they have suffered their injury.
Once the employer has received the form, they must forward it on to their workers’ compensation insurer within 10 days. Within 28 days, the insurer must provide a written response to the injured worker, either accepting or rejecting their claim.
What are the types of compensation that an injured worker is entitled to?
Under workers’ compensation, a worker can be entitled to the following compensation:
- Weekly payments if they are unfit to perform their pre-injury duties
- Reimbursement for their reasonable medical expenses
- Lump-sum compensation if their injury is permanent. This can include a lump sum for permanent impairment and compensation for their pain and suffering.
When should I speak to a lawyer about work health and safety?
At Gordon Legal, our workplace lawyers will be engaged if you have been injured at work and have made a WorkCover claim. We can also help if your claim has been rejected, or if it has been accepted and your payments have been cut off.
If you have a permanent injury, you may be able to bring a claim for more damages, or a common-law claim, under which you can sue your employer for negligence.
If you have not yet made a claim and are proactively dealing with an issue, it is best to contact your union or WorkSafe prior to engaging a lawyer.
If you identify a workplace hazard, talk to the OHS rep or HSR on site, who has powers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to put provisional improvement notices on plans, equipment and/or unsafe environments until the employer comes to an agreement, or WorkSafe is engaged.
You can also call WorkSafe or your union for advice.
What to do if this information applies to you
At Gordon Legal, we understand that work health and safety is a personal issue.
For personalised and individual advice, we offer consultations to discuss your matter.
Please call Gordon Legal on 1800 21 22 23 or our Geelong office on 1800 21 22 23 to speak with a member of our team.
Given the current environment, we are providing consultations over the phone or via video conferencing platforms.