Your Ultimate Guide to Compliance in the Workplace
All workplaces must fulfil a number of criteria under the law in order to keep their employees, contractors, visitors, or anybody else who may be on the premises safe. Breaking compliance can not only endanger lives but can also come with severe legal penalties.
The laws and responsibilities surround workplace health and safety compliance, however, are often complex. No two workplaces are exactly alike and therefore will not share the exact same risk factors and compliance issues. Good workplace compliance is structured around being aware of and assessing the risks factors and issues that may present themselves in your unique workplace and developing a plan for how to mitigate and handle them.
While each workplace, its risks, and the compliance issues it may experience are unique, they will share many common strategies for handling the planning, mitigation, and legal responsibilities of workplace health and safety.
In this article, we will provide the ultimate guide to workplace health and safety compliance. We will cover the different areas of compliance, the law that enforces them, and some strategies for the implementation of safeguards.
What is Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Compliance?
Complying with Workplace Health and Safety laws and regulations involves taking steps to ensure that everybody who works or enters your workplace is as safe as they possibly can be. Compliance legislation is not only designed to protect employees, but customers, clients, contractors, visitors, or anybody else who may be involved with your business’s operations. At a basic level, to comply with Workplace Health and Safety laws you must be continually assessing your workplace for new and existing threats to safety, and working to reduce, eliminate, or mitigate them.
The exact compliance obligations will vary depending on the industry and workplace environment, so it’s always a good idea to seek advice on your specific obligations. In principle, though, the obligations all businesses have are as follows:
- Provide a safe working environment
- Mitigate or eliminate risks when discovered
- Perform a continual assessment to discover new or evolved risks
- Provide information and training to employees on their WHS obligations and how to comply with them
- Verify safeguards and risk elimination or reduction methods when dealing with dangerous substances, materials, or machinery
- Provide up-to-date insurance and compensation policies for accidents and injuries
Meeting your Workplace Health and Safety compliance obligations will not only serve to keep people safe in your workplace but will also benefit the business by reducing costs relating to downtime and compensation claims, while also increasing staff retention and productivity rates.
Corporate Compliance Law
How to Ensure Your Workplace is Compliant
Complying with Workplace Health and Safety laws is easy if you follow some basic steps and incorporate them into your workflow and business decision making processes. Follow these checklist steps to help ensure your workplace is legally compliant:
- Creating a risk management plan to aid in the identification and handling of risks and hazards
- Regularly assess the work environment and procedures ensuring they comply with safety best practices
- Appoint a safety officer responsible for implementing the plan, assessing risks, and reporting incidents
- Provide training and safety guidelines to staff both during on-boarding and at regular intervals
Workplace Health and Safety Legislation and the Chain of Responsibility
Chain of Responsibility has been a concept in Workplace Health and Safety law for a long time. In essence, the concept is that each person in the management chain is legally liable for breaches that occur in something they had oversight in. While the law is focussed towards heavy good vehicles and their drivers, many of the provisions apply to the workplace in general.
Furthermore, recent changes to Chain of Responsibility mean that employers now need to take a more proactive stance on reducing and eliminating risk factors. Previously legal action could only be taken if an incident had occurred, however, under the new laws, the presence of an unaddressed risk alone is enough to suffer legal penalties. This change means that employers must take a much more proactive stance if they want to avoid breaching Workplace Health and Safety laws.
Here are some of the common places where breaches may occur:
- Contracts — ensure contracts do not force employees to work longer hours than legally permitted
- Timings — when setting work schedules, travel routes, and job completion times, make sure to have reasonable goals that will not force employees to exceed safe working hours.
- Loads — all shipments and load should comply with the legally specified weight limits and be packaged safely and securely.
- Speed Limits — drivers should stick to the speed limits for the road and vehicles they are operating.
Contractor Risk Management
Contractors are often a necessity to augment the workforce in your business with either additional temporary staff or specialist skills. Without proper care, however, contractors can open you up to further health and safety risks. Permanent regular staff will have often gone through an extensive verification process before being hired; they may also have received further training on-the-job and will be experienced in the business’s work environments and the unique risk factors associated with them.
The contractors will almost certainly be capable of performing the job required and to the same level as permanent in-house staff, but as with when dealing with any unknown in a business, you should always be cautious and take additional steps to verify everything. At the very least contractors will not be familiar with your unique workplace and procedures (even though they may have worked in similar environments) so should be given some form of safety training during their on-boarding.
Check and follow these guidelines to ensure hiring contractors doesn’t open your business up to more health and safety risks:
- Create clear minimum requirements by which to screen applicants
- Prequalify all candidates against requirements; verify training and qualifications
- Perform drug and alcohol testing
- Arrange safety training, detailing the specific risks and operational procedures of your workplace
- Provide detailed contracts clearly outlining the various responsibilities and obligations of both parties
- Check the contractor has valid insurance for the work required
Read more about Minimising Risk When Hiring Contractors.
The Importance of Minimising Risk in the Workplace
There are nearly half a million workplace accidents resulting in injuries across Australia every year; nearly two hundred will end in a fatality. Thankfully, though, through tighter legislative controls and greater awareness of the risk factors, the numbers are on the decline.
The safer a workplace the less it will suffer from injuries and accidents. Working to keep your workplace safe is a legal requirement with severe penalties for non-compliance, but it also has many other benefits.
Taking a proactive and responsible stance on workplace safety will not only help to fulfil your legal obligations, but will also reflect better on the company and its management to the employees, customers, and community which has the added benefits of increasing staff retention and customer loyalty.
Injuries and accidents cause staff to be off sick and can temporarily halt production. Decreasing the number of workplace injuries will serve to reduce the amount of sick-time and downtime which will ultimately save the company money.
Regular workplace assessments for health and safety risks can not only highlight risk factors but can also bring to light inefficiencies in your processes. A nice by-product of performing regular assessments is the ability to identify and eliminate these inefficiencies, saving the company time and money.
Conserve works with companies both large and small to help meet their legal obligations and keep their staff and contractors safe. Get in touch to find out how we can help you to increase health and safety in your workplace.