Recently in NSW two SafeWork inspectors were assaulted during safety inspections. Disappointingly, this is not the first time in recent years that Australian inspectors have been physically or verbally abused in a handful of incidents ranging from obstruction to intimidation and assault

Our regulatory bodies and their officers play an important role in enforcing workplace safety legislation and educating business and industry. Their charter is to help keep us safe; making incidents like these completely acceptable.
 
In light of these events SafeWork NSW recently issued a caution, reminding businesses that hindering inspectors is in fact a criminal offence and it won’t be tolerated. These incidents also serve as a reminder for all employers to brush up on their workplace safety responsibilities.
 
Employee obligations
 

Occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation and Australian workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation exists to improve workplace safety – whether people are at work or visiting another place of business. Legislation can vary from state to state, but regardless of where businesses operate or what line of work they are in, employers have some common safety obligations, including:
 
  • Regularly assessing workplace risks and hazards, and implementing appropriate measures to control them.
  • Implementing safe systems of work, including having appropriate and up to date risk management plans.
  • Providing adequate information, instruction, training and safety supervision.
  • Ensuring employees and customers know how to appropriately handle goods, substances and equipment.
  • Where it is not entirely possible to avoid workplace hazards, providing employees with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and training on how to use it.
  • Reporting notifiable incidents to the appropriate workplace safety regulator.
  • Investigating safety incidents and taking action to prevent repeat occurrences.
  • Businesses must also provide adequate workers’ compensation insurance.
 
As employers our duty of care extends to our employees, volunteers, customers, contractors and all other visitors who interact with our business – including the inspectors who assess our safety performance.
 
What is expected of our workforce?
 
Employees are responsible for ensuring their own safety and that of those around them. Very broadly this means: 
 
  • Complying with the OH&S or WHS policies of your employer.
  • Following instructions given for workplace health and safety.
  • Using personal protective equipment (PPE) when provided by an employer, and ensuring you have adequate training and knowledge in how to use it.
  • Not wilfully putting yourself, people you work with or others in or visiting your workplace, at risk.
 
What happens when we don’t comply?
 
Just as legislation can vary slightly from state to state, penalties can too.
  • In Queensland and Tasmania the maximum penalty for corporations is $3M. Individuals as officers or PCBU face $600,000 fines and/or 5 years imprisonment, whilst individual employees can receive $300,000 fines and/or 5 years jail time.
  • In Western Australia the most serious offences attract a $2.7million penalty for first offenders, and $3.5million for repeat offenders.
 
In addition to failing to comply with workplace safety legislation, assaulting a SafeWork (or WorkSafe) employee carries additional individual fines as high as $50,000 with 2yrs imprisonment, and up fines of to $250,000 for businesses.
 
See your local regulator for information on legislation and penalties in your jurisdiction.
 
Always take safety seriously
 
These recent assaults demonstrate a lack of consideration for safety and alarmingly poor judgement by all those involved. They remind us to always put safety first, and to be accountable and take responsibility when things don’t go to plan.
 
At Coates Hire we take safety very seriously. From defensive driving training and industry education, through to free community “testing and tagging” days for electrical equipment, we invest in systems, processes and initiatives that keep people safe and foster a safety-first culture.
 
How does your business prioritise the safety of its employees and others? Are current penalties adequate deterrents for business to comply? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn.
 
Alternatively, please contact a member of the Coates Hire team on 13 15 52.
 

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