Duties employers owe to employees

Protection from harm in the workplace

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of employees while at work by providing and maintaining a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

 

Consultation

Employers must consult with employees, as far as is reasonably practicable, on issues that may directly affect employees' health and safety, especially when:

  • identifying or assessing hazards or risks
  • making decisions about controlling risks
  • deciding on the adequacy of facilities for employees
  • developing procedures to resolve OHS issues
  • developing procedures for:employee consultation
  • monitoring employees' health and workplace conditions
  • providing information and training to employees
  • determining the membership of health and safety committees
  • proposing changes to the workplace, plant, substances or other things used at the workplace

    Consultation must involve:

    • sharing information with employees about their health, safety and welfare
    • giving employees a reasonable opportunity to express their views
    • taking into account their views and contributions

    Health and safety representation

    Employees have the right to representation by health and safety representatives (HSRs) who represent a designated work group (DWG). A DWG is a grouping of employees set up in a way that best represents the employees' OHS interests and ensures access to their HSR.

    If an employee asks their employer to set-up a DWG, the employer must do everything reasonable to ensure negotiations to establish the DWG start within 14 days of the request. Once established, a DWG's members can decide how to elect HSRs and who will run the election. If there is disagreement on how to run the election, WorkSafe may help by either running the election or appointing someone else to do so. A member of a DWG can be nominated as an HSR and all members of that DWG can vote.

    Where the employer and employees agree, a DWG may also elect more than one HSR and one or more deputy HSRs. A deputy HSR may exercise HSR powers when the HSR cannot.

     

    Resolving issues

    Employers and employees – through their HSR – must try to resolve issues using agreed internal procedures. If there are no established procedures, they can use a process specified in the OHS Regulations. If the parties cannot resolve the issue in a reasonable time, either party can ask WorkSafe to arrange for an inspector to enquire into the issue.

    The person representing the employer in attempts to resolve OHS issues must have an appropriate level of seniority, be competent to act for the employer and must not be an HSR.

    Prohibition of discrimination

    Employers must not threaten, dismiss or refuse to hire a person, or otherwise adversely affect the person's employment because of action the person has taken in line with the OHS Act. This includes being a member of a safety committee, acting as an HSR or deputy HSR, assisting an inspector or raising OHS issues.

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