SMB HR Basics (Part 3) – Work Health & Safety

Growing your team can be daunting.  What do I really need to know? Where do I start?

Seed People Consulting is proud to present a Four Part series of SMB HR Basics to help you set up your business with the core HR requirements (as well as a couple of bonus points!) to ensure you’re compliant, organised and ready to hire, motivate and manage a capable and supported team.

In this Part 3 of 4, we will cover the following key topics in the realm of Work Health & Safety (WHS):

  • What legislation applies?
  • What is my duty of care?
  • Managing Safety
  • Workers Compensation and Insurance


All States and Territories across Australia, except Victoria and Western Australia, have consistent Work Health & Safety laws based on the model WHS laws introduced in 2011. Whilst there are a number of technical differences between the model WHS laws and the Victorian and Western Australian WHS, the principles of hazard/risk identification, prevention, responsiveness and protection for both physical and mental health in the workplace, remain the constant.


Duty of Care

As a business owner and/or Manager, you are responsible, as far as ‘reasonably practicable’, to provide a safe work environment for the health, safety and welfare of your workers, contractors, visitors, and members of the public who may be affected by your work.

At a minimum, you must ensure:

  • the work environment, systems of work, machinery and equipment are safe and properly maintained
  • chemicals are used, handled and stored safely
  • adequate workplace facilities are available
  • information, training, instruction and supervision are provided
  • workers’ health and workplace conditions are monitored
  • any accommodation you provide to your workers is safe
  • you regularly consult with employees regarding Work Health and Safety and any changes or issues that may affect them in the workplace.

For more information on WHS duty of care requirements in NSW, visit Safe Work NSW.


Proactively Managing Safety

Proactively managing safety is the best way to avoid incidents and injuries in your workplace – whether you work in an office environment, in a restaurant or in a high risk work environment. Being aware of hazards and risks, as well as regularly consulting with and training your employees is a great place to start.

Try these other simple steps to proactively manage safety in your business:


Identify safety risks

  • Ask your workers about problems they may have encountered, near misses, aches and pains, and anything else which may concern them about their safety (including risks in relation to their mental health, such as customer abuse)
  • Take regular walks around the workplace, looking for unsafe work practices and the general state of housekeeping
  • Observe how plant and equipment are used; what chemicals are used and how they are stored (this is especially relevant in cleaning products used in almost all businesses)

Eliminate the risks

The best way to have an injury-free workplace is to get rid of potential safety problems, ideally at the design or planning stage. If you can’t eliminate the problem completely, you need to minimise the risk to your employees and contractors.

Limit the impact of the risks

Do the best you can to do one or more of the following, or consider using a combination of controls:

  • Substitute the problem with something safer – eg replace solvent-based paints with water-based ones.
  • Isolate the problem from people – eg install a guard to prevent access to moving parts on a machine.
  • Use engineering controls – eg use springs to self-close gates.
  • Minimise any remaining risk with administrative controls – eg install warning signs.
  • Use personal protective equipment – eg ear muffs, face masks, gloves, hard hats.

Review and revise controls

You must review your risk control measures:

  • when the control measure is not working
  • before workplace layout or practices are changed
  • if a new problem is found
  • if consultation shows a review is necessary
  • if a health and safety representative requests it.


Workers Compensation and Insurance

All employers in NSW must have a Workers Compensation insurance policy. You are deemed an employer if you hire or employ workers on a regular, causal or contract basis.

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance payment to employees if they are injured at work or become sick due to their work.  It includes payments to employees to cover their wages while they’re not fit for work, as well as medical expenses and rehabilitation.

Incidents of Workers Compensation can be minimised by managing your Workplace Health and Safety proactively as per the above advice.  If, however, you do experience an employee having a work-related illness or injury, it is your obligation to work alongside your employee and your insurer, as well as any treating Doctors or rehabilitation providers to ensure a successful return to work outcome for your team member.

Further information relating to these topics can be found through our Seed HR Hub, including template WHS policies, guidelines and definitions to help you navigate this in-depth area of expertise. Visit our website to find out more.

What’s coming up next?

In the next and last issue of our Four Part Series, we will focus on Managing for Performance, covering all your SMB essentials on:

  • Managing for Employee performance
  • How to measure performance
  • What if performance isn’t going to plan?


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