Government workplace health and safety body Safe Work Australia has released guidance materials for safety officers, outlining their roles, responsibilities, and duty of care.
A mini site, including written manuals and video seminars is now available at the Safe Work Australia website.
“If you make or influence the significant financial or operational decisions for a business then you may be an ‘officer’ under WHS laws”, said Safe Work Australia’s CEO Michelle Baxter.
“As an officer, you have a duty under WHS laws to look for ways to lead on WHS matters.
“Our new guidance material includes videos of real officers explaining how they fulfil this important role within their business.”
Safe Work Australia produced the material in support of small business. Investigations found small business requires more practical guidance in fulfilling their WHS obligations.
The guidance materials show the chain of responsibility for WHS in small organisations, the duty of care of safety officers, and practical guides to ensure workers are protected against harm by way of implementing suitable safe work systems.
The guides also provide for volunteer safety officers, to ensure they meet their duties.
Small business safety is of primary concern to Safe Work Australia. Small business accounts for 95% of all Australian businesses and are responsible for the health and safety of approximately 4.8 million workers.
According to Work Safe Australia, poor safety costs Australian business over $61.8 billion a year (estimated, across all businesses.)
Safe Work Australia guidelines place the primary duty of care for safety and workplace health on “persons conducting a business or undertaking.”
Small business is defined as an entity with fewer than 20 workers and directed by a single officeholder or a family. These officeholders are generally present in the workplace as a manager.
The Safe Work Australia model for good workplace practices are based on five leadership principles: commitment to safety; getting involved; encouraging participation; making WHS a part of the business; and consistent performance reviews.
For small business who require advice on policy or implementation, Safe Work Australia urges business owners to contact their state or territory WHS regulator.
A comprehensive list of the leadership principles and links to state/territory regulators are found here.