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Q&A

Here we share some of the most interesting questions that come through the Helpdesk service from subscribers. Please note: All identifying details are removed for reasons of confidentiality.

Through the Helpdesk, you can ask any general health and safety queries that you can’t find an answer to in your handbook, and our experts will give you an answer. Whether your query is about recent legislative changes, or the steps you need to take to protect yourself, our team of experts is ready to answer your questions.

August 29, 2021 on chapter Pre-employment assessments
Must employers pay for pre-employment medical assessments?

Can we ask a job candidate to consent to undergo a pre-employment medical assessment at their own expense? Is there anything in legislation that prevents this?

August 29, 2021 on chapter Hygiene
Can we direct workers to wear face masks?

What rights does an employer have when an employee refuses to wear a face mask as part of a government directive in relation to COVID-19? Can we enforce compliance and discipline an employee who refuses to comply?

August 29, 2021 on chapter Stress
Can we report a stress hazard to the regulator?

We have a small team in our business that has an excessive workload. The workload is so heavy that staff can’t cope, and they tend to resign within a year once they burn out. Over the years, many managers, supervisors and workers have raised the issue with upper management, but with no results. Workers seem reluctant to go down the workers’ compensation path when they develop health problems as a result of stress, and it’s easier for them to simply leave. Since there is clearly a health and safety issue here, is there anything staff can do (besides resigning)? For instance, would this be something that could be reported to a regulator?

September 16, 2020 on chapter Alcohol and other drugs
Drug and alcohol testing

Our organisation is in the construction industry, which requires workers be free from the effects of drugs or alcohol, and present a negative test result. We are trying to confirm our rights if an employee provides a non-negative result. Can we stand them down without pay (with the option to access personal leave), as they are considered unfit for work? Or would we have to stand them down on pay as we are directing them not to attend the workplace?

October 03, 2019 on chapter Alcohol and other drugs
Can we request an employee take a drug test and that they must pass?

Can we request an employee take a drug test and that they must pass? We have heard that one of our employees has been using illicit drugs (rumour only). His attendance and performance have clearly declined. We do have a drug and alcohol policy, but it doesn’t cover testing.

December 03, 2018 on chapter Alcohol and other drugs
What procedures do we need in place for out-of-hours use of our swimming pool?

As part of our wellbeing program for staff at school, we are considering providing staff access to our swimming pool and gym after hours and during holidays. Since employees may be on their own when they visit the pool, what do we need to do to fulfil our duty of care to them? Is supervision required?

August 03, 2019 on chapter Animals in the workplace
What are our legal health and safety requirements regarding the use of dogs in the workplace?

We are looking at using dogs to detect termites. We would have them in our main workplace, but also transport them to and from other worksites in our vehicles. What are our legal health and safety requirements?

August 04, 2017 on chapter Asbestos
What regulations surround provisions for syringe disposal?

I represent an organisation that works in the public sector. Are there standards, legislation and/or protocols to follow regarding the possibility of needing to provide syringe disposal in our public toilets for our potential clients and clients who may need to dispose of a syringe?

February 04, 2017 on chapter Asbestos
What do we have to report to regulators about asbestos (both friable and non friable) at our workplace?

What do we have to report to regulators about asbestos (both friable and non friable) at our workplace? I have been told by some people that sites containing a minimum of 10 square metres of bonded asbestos have to be reported to SafeWork NSW.

July 04, 2016 on chapter Asbestos
Who is a ‘competent person’ to identify asbestos risks?

We have asbestos at our workplace that is all clearly identified. It is on our register, we have put in steps to inform appropriate people, etc. However, we are struggling with one aspect.

Part of our management plan is to inspect the areas on a regular basis, but everything we read says that a competent person must do this inspection. Our understanding is that the inspection in question is a straightforward visual inspection – to confirm there are no cracks or chips and all is as it should be.

However, who is a competent person in this instance? We are not asking them to verify it is asbestos just verify the integrity of the object (i.e. a pole) is intact.

Our feeling is that a competent person in this case is someone who sees the area on a regular basis, such as our Head of Grounds.

November 04, 2016 on chapter Audits, inspections and reviews
How can a worker get appropriate training?

I am in the process of reviewing the company health and safety policies and procedures. I am using the H&S Handbook for guidance. I am currently reviewing the audit procedures. I note in the Handbook that ‘appropriately trained internal staff, or an external third party can undertake audits’. How might a staff member receive appropriate training to complete audits? We are located in Western Australia.

March 04, 2016 on chapter Audits, inspections and reviews
How often should we conduct workplace inspections?

What is the legal requirement regarding how regularly a workplace should be formally inspected? I had the impression we were required to inspect at least quarterly, but I can’t find any legislation to support this.

We encourage daily observations in our business; however, this is not recorded formally and only hazards are documented when seen.

We operate nursing homes in NSW, Victoria, SA and Queensland.

June 06, 2014 on chapter Audits, inspections and reviews
How frequently are we legally required to carry out office inspections?

We use an office inspection checklist that covers electrical, manual handling, facilities, emergency response items, garden and surrounds, chemicals and WHS noticeboard and information. How frequently are we legally required to carry out an office inspection of this type?

October 03, 2019 on chapter Bullying
Do we need workplace bullying and harassment policies if we already have procedures in place?

If we have robust anti-bullying and harassment procedures in place, do we still need to have a policy?

August 03, 2019 on chapter Bullying
Can a worker claim workers’ compensation for an injury caused while breaching company policy?

Are employees still entitled to claim workers’ compensation if they sustain an injury while at work but in the process of performing an act that is not legal and/or breaches company policy? Our business operates in NSW.

May 04, 2017 on chapter Bullying
Can we conduct a health and safety risk assessment on a bullying manager?

I have been asked by our company to perform a risk assessment on a manager who has been accused of bullying on 3 occasions in the past 8 years (inconclusive investigations). I have provided my managers with advice that a health and safety risk assessment is not the correct tool to use, nor am I prepared to conduct a risk assessment. I have referred them to a third-party provider if they wish to continue.

Is there a precedent for using a health and safety risk assessment in this manner? Are there any legal ramifications in doing this?

August 04, 2018 on chapter Chemical safety
Is one SDS enough for different brands of paint?

Our maintenance department has a lot of different brands of aerosol touch-up paint that it uses when repairing equipment. All the cans are stored appropriately. Are we required to have one SDS for every brand and colour or can we just have one and use it for all like products?

January 04, 2018 on chapter Chemical safety
What information do we need to keep for non-hazardous substances?

If we have determined that a material is not classified as hazardous and not classified as dangerous goods, are we required to maintain current (within 5 years) Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) on hand?

June 04, 2017 on chapter Chemical safety
Where can we find simple signage information?

We just had an audit, and some of our chemical signs were not correct, where can I find simple information on signage?

July 04, 2018 on chapter Children in the workplace
Do we have to supervise children visiting the workplace?

We allow children of staff to be at our school during school holidays – but only when their parents are here. Should we allow these children to play on the playground equipment, use sporting facilities, etc, unsupervised?

October 05, 2015 on chapter Children in the workplace
What obligations do we have to children visiting the workplace?

Are there any specific requirements, e.g. under health and safety legislation or regulations, for managing children in the workplace? One of our workers occasionally brings their child to work to babysit for a few hours. If children are in the workplace, does this mean that all or any of our workers need a Working with Children Check?

June 06, 2015 on chapter Children in the workplace
What are our health and safety responsibilities and/or liabilities relating to children visiting the workplace?

We are becoming increasingly concerned about staff members having their children in an office-based work environment. One staff member brings a one-year-old child into the office. The child is allowed wander through the building unsupervised. We also have three staff members with school-age children who wander around a community centre between 4pm−5pm on a daily basis, accessing computers intended for clients.

While we promote ourselves as a ‘family-friendly employer’, there must be a point where the risks associated with this type of behaviour can no longer be seen as acceptable by the employer. What are our health and safety responsibilities and/or liabilities in relation to this practice?

October 22, 2020 on chapter Construction
When do we need a high-risk work licence in NSW?

When do we need a high-risk work licence in NSW?

June 03, 2019 on chapter Construction
What speeds apply to forklifts in a warehouse?

What speed limit should we set for forklifts in our dedicated outside warehouse? The business is in Victoria.

June 03, 2019 on chapter Construction
Is there a requirement to place the company’s Australian Business Number (ABN) on the template of an SWMS?

Is there a requirement to place the company’s Australian Business Number (ABN) on the template of an SWMS?

October 04, 2017 on chapter Consultation
Does a WHS committee member need extra training?

Our construction services company in NSW has just elected its first WHS committee. Must we provide anyone with official training to be a part of the WHS committee? The workers are highly trained in their roles for high-risk work but do not hold any formal WHS training. No one has requested the training.

One committee member will be our company WHS manager, who has a diploma in WHS and a Cert IV in TAE. The rest of the committee will comprise our construction staff.

June 04, 2016 on chapter Consultation
Does a health and safety committee chairperson have to be an employee?

We are presently struggling to find volunteers for the chairperson role of our health and safety committee and are wondering what our options are.

Is it prohibited under health and safety legislation to appoint an independent non-worker to act as chairperson for the committee? Also, what processes do we need to follow to adjust the size of the committee, e.g. streamline the numbers or reduce managers acting as worker representatives?

September 06, 2015 on chapter Consultation
May we set up our own health and safety committee and manage it according to our own internal procedure?

We have a robust safety representation in our business with a documented governance structure that provides workers with the ability to have a voice on health, safety and wellbeing at many levels. We have safety officers that report regularly to an health and safety committee, which then in turn monitors and reports safety issues to the executive and then to the board.

Given that we have such a structure and feel safety is well managed in the organisation, are we legally exposed by not following the OHS Act and having voted in HSRs and designated work groups?

October 04, 2017 on chapter Contractors
What insurance information should we seek from contractors?

What insurance documents do we need our contractors to provide us with before conducting work at our site? We are located in Adelaide. Currently, we ask for Public Liability insurance and a Return to Work SA Certificate, but is there anything else we should be requesting?

March 06, 2015 on chapter Contractors
What are the insurance requirements for subcontractors?

Our question relates to the safety responsibility and liability our business has for subcontractors of a nominated contractor. The scenario is:

    • Our business – Controller of premises
    • Contractor A – Principal contractor (mechanical services company)
    • Contractor B – Subcontractors (electrical company or sole trader)

Our business engages Contractor A to undertake repairs and maintenance to the air conditioning system on our premises. Contractor A requires Contractor B to do some electrical work on the air conditioning system. Our business collects insurances from Contractor A, but does not collect insurances from Contractor B.

Our questions are as follows:

1. Does our business need to conduct due diligence for all subcontractors engaged by the principal contractor to perform work on our site?

2. Is our business required to check that Contractor B has relevant insurances and qualifications, or is a written agreement necessary between our business and Contractor A outlining Contractor A’s responsibility to ensure Contractor B is covered by insurances and is suitably qualified?

3. Does a written agreement need to be in place to ratify the responsibility for the principal contractor to be conducting their own due diligence in relation to the subcontractors engaged by them?

December 01, 2020 on chapter Discrimination
Making reasonable adjustments for a worker’s injury

We have an employee who is becoming unable to fulfil the requirements of his role due to a pre-existing (non-work-related) knee injury. He has worked for us for many years and we have so far accommodated him by allowing him to:

  • change tasks when he needs to rest his knee; and
  • take unpaid time off work for medical appointments or to rest his knee.

It is becoming problematic as the frequency of his time off and changing tasks is increasing, and it is affecting his ability to do his job and the rest of the team.

How far do we have to go in accommodating this injury before the situation can be deemed as untenable?

May 04, 2018 on chapter Discrimination
How can we avoid Hepatitis C discrimination?

Our workplace has a designated first aid officer who has Hepatitis C. The employee works at a location where first aid may at times need to be administered to members of the public. Due to their Hepatitis C, I would like to remove the person from this role. However, I am also worried that the worker will see this as form of discrimination.

March 04, 2016 on chapter Discrimination
Are we required to provide assistance for a non-work-related injury?

Is an employer required to provide aids/mechanical assistance in the workplace for non-work-related injuries? Further, what evidence can the employer ask a worker to provide about their injury before making a decision regarding this request?

February 06, 2020 on chapter Duties of managers
Who is a prescribed person?

The Work Health and Safety Act refers to a ‘prescribed person’ and ‘person of a prescribed class’. There are no definitions for these terms in the legislation. Who do these terms refer to?

April 04, 2016 on chapter Duties of managers
What happens if a worker refuses to wear PPE?

One of our workers always has his safety glasses on top of his head and only rarely wears them properly. Can I issue him with a warning or give him a letter not claiming responsibility if he gets injured? We are based in Melbourne.

April 04, 2016 on chapter Duties of managers
Can a worker refuse to sign a revised Safe Work Method Statement?

We have a worker who refuses to sign our revised Safe Work Method Statements (SWMSs) even though he signed the original documents. How do we deal with this situation?

May 30, 2021 on chapter Duties of officers
Can we ask for evidence of fitness for work?

We have an employee who has taken nearly a month of personal leave due to illness. Since the employee works in a high-risk area of the business, we wish to ask them to provide a medical clearance before they return to work. Are we able to do this?

January 04, 2018 on chapter Duties of workers
Can workers listen to music safely?

Is there a workplace law or directive that prevents employees from wearing earpieces or headsets playing music in a manufacturing or construction environment?

February 06, 2015 on chapter Duties of workers
What happens if a worker refuses to attend a medical examination?

If a worker is injured at work and the employer wants them to go to a doctor in an ambulance to be checked and cleared for work, can the worker refuse this request?

March 06, 2020 on chapter Electrical safety
What are our testing and tagging requirements?

Our business has offices in Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane. What are the test and tag requirements in these states?

September 03, 2019 on chapter Electrical safety
What are our testing and tagging requirements?

Could you please direct me to the act or regulation that states that testing and tagging must be carried out in the workplace? Our business is in New South Wales.

July 04, 2018 on chapter Electrical safety
Who determines what level of PPE our company must pay for?

Does our business in Western Australia have to provide all personal protective equipment (PPE) to a worker at no cost?

For instance, if a truck driver requires new work boots, can the company put a limit on the cost, e.g. keep it to the lower cost?

Should the cost of driving glasses with hardened/toughened lenses be met by the company?

May 06, 2015 on chapter Fatigue management
Can someone legally work an 84-hour week?

I have a worker who works 12 hours per day, 7 days a week for up to 9 weeks at a time. The worker hasn’t complained about the workload and is supplied accommodation close to the work area. The worker has adequate rest during their downtime.

I was wondering if there are any legal issues with this workload and would also like to know of any controls I could implement to lower the risk of an incident.

February 09, 2021 on chapter Fire safety
Where can I find fire safety requirements for Western Australia?

I have been told we need a certain number of fire extinguishers per square metre of our work shed, and we need to carry a certain number in our work trailers. How can I find this exact information for Western Australia?

September 03, 2019 on chapter Fire safety
What clearance around a hydrant should be left for emergency services to obtain access in an emergency?

What clearance around a hydrant should be left for emergency services to obtain access in an emergency? Our business is in South Australia.

May 03, 2019 on chapter Fire safety
What are the legal requirements regarding the training of fire wardens?

We have nominated fire wardens within our office buildings. What are the legal requirements regarding their training?

October 22, 2020 on chapter First aid
First aid kit inspections

What are the requirements regarding keeping first aid kits up to date? Should we inspect them annually?

February 06, 2020 on chapter First aid
When must you have a first aid officer?

Are we legally required to have a first aid officer within an office environment?

December 03, 2019 on chapter First aid
Do we need to have a first aider in the office?

Are we legally required to have a first aid officer within an office environment?

April 04, 2016 on chapter Hazard identification
Are we legally required to have our own confined space management plan?

Our Queensland-based organisation mainly operates in an office environment, but we also manage an aquarium. Occasionally, our workers are required to dive into the aquarium tanks. Large water-holding tanks that are kept onsite also require occasional maintenance.

Can you please confirm if we are legally required to have our own confined space management plan?

March 06, 2015 on chapter Hazard identification
What polices and procedures should we have for dangerous goods?

We store and transport some dangerous goods, including pressurised containers and hazardous liquids. Can you please provide some insight as to the requirements of the policies and procedures for these?

December 01, 2020 on chapter Health and safety policies and procedures
Workplace health and safety policy requirements

Is there a legal requirement to have certain policies or is it just what you believe is relevant to the business operations?

Signing a safe work method statement

I have received advice that employees must sign off (handwritten signatures or signatures scanned in) on safe work method statements (SWMSs) for working at heights and high-pressure work. Do you have to have actual employees’ signatures on the SWMSs?

August 03, 2019 on chapter Health and safety policies and procedures
Do we need to have evacuation maps in every room?

We have a full emergency plan in our workplace that we test and review regularly. We are currently reviewing our evacuation plans and the question arose of how many maps we require? Our workplace is a large school with maps currently displayed in each classroom. Is this necessary?

Can a health and safety committee member refuse training?

One of our health and safety committee members has refused to undergo training. Should they be allowed to remain on the committee?

Are we required to have a work group and HSR at every site across the country?

Our organisation operates at multiple sites across the country. Are we required to have a work group and HSR at every site? Or can we have one work group per state or sector, and invite one worker from each site to form part of their state/sector work group, with that work group electing an HSR?

Can a worker representing a work group be a WHS Committee member?

Can a worker representing a work group be a WHS Committee member? Or does it have to be a worker not involved in the WHS Committee already?

May 04, 2017 on chapter Health monitoring
What are our reporting obligations in relation to hazardous materials and substances found at our workplace?

What are our reporting obligations to SafeWork NSW and/or the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in relation to hazardous materials and substances (e.g. lead and hydrocarbons) found at our workplace?

August 29, 2021 on chapter Hygiene
Can we direct workers to wear face masks?

What rights does an employer have when an employee refuses to wear a face mask as part of a government directive in relation to COVID-19? Can we enforce compliance and discipline an employee who refuses to comply?

August 04, 2017 on chapter Hygiene
Are we required to provide spill kits?

Could you please point out the standard that relates to spill kits (in an aged care setting)?

February 04, 2016 on chapter Hygiene
How do we ensure workers practice good hygiene?

We have a delicate situation in relation to personal hygiene within our company. We receive many complaints about the men’s toilets. The complaints relate to urine on the floor, excessive pubic hairs in the urinals, excrement on the walls and floor, and boot marks on the toilet seats.

To date, we have added motion-activated hand dryers, installed signs to remind people to wash their hands, and we always ensure there is plenty of toilet paper, air freshener and handwash available.

We have workers concerned about their health when they share workspaces in the workshop, which involves using machines, workbenches and hand tools. Some workers avoid using the toilets unless absolutely necessary and won’t even have biscuits from the barrel as they are worried whose hands may have been in there before them.

We wish to raise this matter at a safety meeting and cover personal hygiene. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

October 04, 2018 on chapter Incident reporting and investigation
How long must we keep an incident form?

How long do we have to keep a completed incident form? I am assisting an employer in WA to review their policies.

The company is an NFP and works in environmental management.

May 04, 2018 on chapter Incident reporting and investigation
Should we complete an incident report months after the incident?

I have a customer who wants to fill out a customer incident report for an injury she said she received more than 5 months ago at our venue. She said she told a staff member on the day of the incident but was not told to, or made aware of, the need to fill out an incident report. She now claims her injury may require surgery and wants to fill out a report.

Is this too long ago for us to report this? Especially considering she could not even give an accurate date as to when the incident happened. I am concerned of the accuracy of the report, as there is no way I can verify her version of events.

April 04, 2018 on chapter Incident reporting and investigation
Do we have to keep paper copies of incident reports?

Should we retain paper copies of incident reports after an incident has been entered into an online incident reporting system?

September 05, 2015 on chapter Industrial instruments
Can workers leave early instead of taking their break?

I understand that we must provide a 30 minute break for full-time workers, but is the worker obligated to take such a break? For example, if a worker requests to undertake their required hours and leave early, rather than extend their work day to accommodate an additional 30 minutes, can the employer agree to this arrangement?

September 06, 2014 on chapter Industrial instruments
Can we deduct sick leave for a work-related injury?

A worker was off work for one day due to a minor injury, and did not request that a WorkCover form be completed at this time. I was going to debit their sick/personal leave for the time taken and the worker questioned why they would be debited their accrued time for a work-related injury.

I informed them that if the injury went on to have a claim registered and accepted, the company would credit back the time. Now I am unsure if the time is to be taken from their accrual as it was a work-related injury.

November 04, 2017 on chapter Insurance
Can workers accrue leave while absent on workers’ compensation?

Can workers accrue or be paid leave while getting Workers’ Compensation? Our company is based in NSW.

October 04, 2017 on chapter Insurance
Must workers agree to be interviewed by workers’ compensation insurers?

We have a situation in our NSW-based company where we have a workers’ compensation case pending further investigation, as it falls under reasonable excuse.

If the third-party investigation company requests interviews with other workers within our organisation, do these workers have to attend the interviews or can they
decline?

At this stage we have only been asked over the phone; not in writing. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

July 04, 2016 on chapter Insurance
Can we request a worker to attend a meeting to discuss their WorkCover claim?

If an employee has a WorkCover claim pending for harassment and stress, can our company continue to investigate while that claim is pending and the employee is off work? Can we ask or request the employee to attend a meeting to find out more details surrounding that claim?

July 10, 2021 on chapter Mental health
Can we challenge a worker’s stress claim?

An employee walked off the job in the morning and her husband called our office to inform us that she is unwell due to stress caused by work. She then contacted our payroll department to check her sick leave balance. If she presents a medical certificate saying she is unfit for work due to stress, can we challenge the ‘stress’ reason or pass the case onto WorkCover for further investigation? Do we have to pay the employee before we see the medical certificate?

May 30, 2021 on chapter Noise safety
How can we protect ourselves from industrial deafness claims?

Can we be held liable for an employee’s industrial deafness even if they sustained the injury in their previous role?

January 28, 2020 on chapter Noise safety
Hearing Tests

We complete hearing tests for at-risk workers every 2 years. We have a staff member, who once was exposed to noise but now works solely in an office environment and has done so for the past 8 years, with no exposure to noise. When should we stop conducting hearing tests for him?

December 03, 2019 on chapter Noise safety
Do we have to conduct hearing tests?

We complete hearing tests for at-risk workers every 2 years. We have a staff member, who once was exposed to noise but now works solely in an office environment and has done so for the past 8 years, with no exposure to noise. When should we stop conducting hearing tests for him?

August 04, 2017 on chapter Notification of incidents
How do we record injuries that change over time?

We use a rolling 12-month record of LTIs (lost time injuries), LTI frequency rates (FRs), MTIs (medical treatment injuries) and MTIFRs. Occasionally, an MTI recorded in one month will convert to an LTI in a later month due to changes in circumstances/treatment required. Should this be recorded twice or is it usual practice to alter the original record and just record only one statistic? Similarly, how is a recurrence of an injury to be captured?

April 03, 2021 on chapter Obligations and standards
What legislation currently applies in Western Australia?

Our business operates in Western Australia. I note that Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation has recently been passed in Western Australia, and will be implemented following completion of the regulations. Could you please confirm which legislation is now relevant for our business?

March 06, 2020 on chapter Obligations and standards
Are there any standards or regulations for portable wheelchair ramps?

Our business has some clients who use wheelchairs, so we are currently sourcing a portable wheelchair ramp. Are there any standards or regulations we should be aware of before we purchase one?

December 03, 2019 on chapter Obligations and standards
Do you have any safety guidance for carrying out hot works

I am looking to create a hot work permit to work process. Do you have any safety guidance when carrying out hot works or other processes that produce a flame or other ignition source?

April 03, 2019 on chapter Office safety
Should we comply with a ‘do not resuscitate request’?

A worker has advised that she has heart problems and has requested that, in the event of cardiac arrest, we do not attempt to resuscitate her or use our automatic external defibrillator (AED). How should we manage this request?

April 04, 2017 on chapter Office safety
Must we provide workers with specialist ergonomic furniture?

We are getting requests from staff who are wanting things such as the following:

    • ergonomic assessments – because they feel they have developed a sore neck at work;
    • ergonomic assessments – because they have aggravated a pre-existing condition at work;
    • adjustable standing desks; and
    • specific styles of chairs.

Can you provide information as to what is our organisation’s responsibility to provide these things?

One of the concerns we have is that if we provide something for one staff member then we may open ourselves up to further requests from other staff, which could lead to a huge expense to the organisation.

October 04, 2016 on chapter Office safety
Are desk lamps allowed for an individual workstation?

Would you recommend having desk lamps for an individual workstation? ls this allowed?

October 04, 2017 on chapter Performance management
Can a manager requesting an employee to do something illegal be considered bullying?

If an employee’s manager asks them to do something that is illegal (such as deleting certain records and not reporting these) would this be considered a form of bullying?

May 04, 2018 on chapter Personal protective equipment
What should we include in our health and safety policy?

What should I include in a health and safety policy for employees who work in a sales and marketing-type environment. An enterprise agreement or modern award does not cover them. The employees work in NSW in the office and visit customers’ locations selling our products and services.

April 04, 2017 on chapter Personal protective equipment
Is wearing high-viz mandatory for our workers?

Our company is the Australian representative for an international manufacturer of industrial laundry equipment that is used in hospitals, hotels and commercial laundries.

Our technicians service customers in all Australian States and across New Zealand, and have departed from company policy (overseas) with us dictating that our technicians must wear high-viz shirts as their standard uniform. This directive has raised questions overseas asking specifically if wearing high-viz is legislated and therefore mandatory?

We believe that wearing high-viz shirts at all times will satisfy the requirements of access to our customers sites.

February 04, 2017 on chapter Personal protective equipment
What happens if an injured worker failed to wear PPE?

Could you please advise obligations/responsibilities for employers/supervisors/employees where an employee is injured due to failure to wear appropriate PPE? Employees have been provided with the relevant PPE, trained in its proper use, there are signs up advising when and where PPE should be used and Safety Work Method Statements (SWMSs) advising you ‘MUST’ or it is ‘ESSENTIAL’ to wear PPE. All employees have reviewed the SWMSs and have agreed to the content.

May 30, 2021 on chapter Plant safety
Do earthmoving equipment operators need a high-risk work licence?

When using earthmoving equipment like front-end loaders for high-risk work, does the operator need a high-risk work licence?

September 04, 2017 on chapter Plant safety
Are we responsible for the employees’ own personal equipment inspections?

We are based in NSW and provide ‘Rope Access’ services in the industrial shutdown and maintenance industries. Recently, casual employees have purchased their own climbing equipment with the intention of using it on our projects. 

In the past, we have provided all the required equipment and subjected them to a rigorous testing and inspection regime prior to use.

Are we responsible for the employees’ personal equipment inspections, logs, etc, and would we be liable if their personal equipment failed and there was an injury (or worse) as a result?

August 29, 2021 on chapter Pre-employment assessments
Must employers pay for pre-employment medical assessments?

Can we ask a job candidate to consent to undergo a pre-employment medical assessment at their own expense? Is there anything in legislation that prevents this?

July 10, 2021 on chapter Pre-employment assessments
Can I ask a worker to disclose medical conditions?

Can I ask a new employee about pre-existing medical conditions, such as depression and anxiety?

December 01, 2020 on chapter Pre-employment assessments
Asking for new employees’ medical history

Are we legally allowed to ask our new employees to fill out a medical history form? We believe we need to know of any health issues an employee may have to fulfil our duty of care.

February 03, 2019 on chapter Radiation at work
How should we decide on the best protective clothing for our outdoor workers?

Our business employs maintenance people to take care of the grounds and we are currently reviewing the protective work wear for these workers. While we would prefer that when working outdoors they wear long-sleeved shirts to protect themselves from the sun, some workers would prefer to wear short-sleeved shirts to remain cooler in the hot weather. Our concern is that this exposes them to the sun’s harm. We do provide sunscreen that some workers use and some do not.

If workers do not wear long sleeves or sunscreen, can we protect ourselves from future claims related to skin cancer by having these employees sign a deed of release or similar document stating that they have been given the option to wear long-sleeved protective clothing but have opted not to, thereby putting themselves at risk by exposing their skin to the sun?

October 05, 2015 on chapter Radiation at work
Is wearing hats for sun protection mandatory?

Our school supplies sunscreen to all staff and students. Recently, our sun safety policy has changed and now wearing hats is no longer mandatory for students or teaching staff on playground duty. The policy is now just to provide advice, and to educate staff and students about sun safety. Is this policy in breach of the WHS Act?

August 04, 2017 on chapter Record and document management
Is it a requirement to keep any worker’s compensation records separate from the employee’s personnel files?

Is it still a requirement to keep any worker’s compensation records separate from the employee’s personnel files? We are a private business but operate across all states and territories.

July 06, 2014 on chapter Record and document management
Is there a legal requirement to keep documentation of health and safety records in hard-copy format?

Is there a legal requirement to keep documentation of health and safety records in hard-copy format or can all documents be scanned and filed? Documents would also include those signed by an employee.

September 03, 2019 on chapter Road transport worker safety
Are Blue Cards mandatory for all drivers?

Are Blue Cards mandatory for all drivers?

September 04, 2017 on chapter Road transport worker safety
What can we do if workers continually arrive at work fatigued?

Our workers are predominately casual labourers. What should we do if they are working on weekends (for example) for another company and turn up fatigued on

Monday morning to work for us?

We know we cannot force them not to work when they want (or need) to; but how can we enforce our policies and procedures that attempt to provide a safe and healthy work environment when the worker could potentially be not ‘fit for work’ at the start of a shift?

November 04, 2016 on chapter Road transport worker safety
When is a load too big to push?

Is there is a maximum weight that can be pushed by a staff member? This is in relation to food-serving trolleys in a nursing home.

August 05, 2015 on chapter Safe operating procedures
What’s the difference between a safe operating procedure and a job safety analysis?

I am in the process of developing a safe operating procedure for vehicle hoists. Could you please provide a clear explanation of the difference between a safe operating procedure and a job safety analysis?

February 09, 2021 on chapter Safety recording
Must we have hard copies of our safety data sheets?

We have hard copies of all the safety data sheets for the chemicals used in our workplace. Is it okay if we have these available on our intranet instead?

January 04, 2020 on chapter Safety recording
Must we record a postie injury?

We have had a postie injure himself after he fell off his bike while delivering mail to us. The postie is not a worker of ours. His bike wheels slid “along” a hose connection we had placed on the berm (approved practice by our client) instead of riding over the hose. At every driveway there is an approved ramp for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians to safely cross the hose. Do we need to capture this as a Lost Time Injury (LTI) on our statistics?

December 01, 2020 on chapter Safety signs
Signage for the storage of hand sanitiser

Our business operates a number of retail stores. In each store, we are storing 20 500ml bottles of hand sanitiser for the use of staff and customers. Do we need to post flammable goods signage on the outside of the building and signage on the storage cabinet where the hand sanitiser is kept to advise we have dangerous goods stored?

October 22, 2020 on chapter Safety signs
Signage requirements

We have been advised that some of our chemical signs are incorrect. Where can I find simple information on signage?

February 04, 2016 on chapter Safety signs
Do emergency exit signs always have to be lit?

We have four emergency exit signs at the exit points of our office and workshop areas. Two of the signs are pictures of a person running out of the building and two are simply the word ‘Exit’. Only one of our signs is constantly lit up.

What are our obligations in relation to these signs? Do they all need to be constantly lit up? Also, do they all need to be the same logo? From what I have read, exit signs have been replaced with signs showing a person running out a door.

February 03, 2019 on chapter Smoking
What rules exist around e-cigarette smokers in the workplace?

One of our employees is an ex-smoker and is now smoking an electronic cigarette instead of tobacco cigarettes. The employee claims that the e-cigarette contains no harmful products and does not emit smoke, but I understood that some of the brands available of these devices do contain nicotine (I am not sure at what concentration).

Are the same restrictions applicable to e-cigarette smokers as those that apply to tobacco smokers? We are based in Victoria.

June 06, 2015 on chapter Social media
Is it okay to monitor workers’ emails?

I was wondering what our rights, responsibilities and limitations are in relation to staff emails. Is it okay to monitor workers’ emails? Our business is based in NSW.

August 29, 2021 on chapter Stress
Can we report a stress hazard to the regulator?

We have a small team in our business that has an excessive workload. The workload is so heavy that staff can’t cope, and they tend to resign within a year once they burn out. Over the years, many managers, supervisors and workers have raised the issue with upper management, but with no results. Workers seem reluctant to go down the workers’ compensation path when they develop health problems as a result of stress, and it’s easier for them to simply leave. Since there is clearly a health and safety issue here, is there anything staff can do (besides resigning)? For instance, would this be something that could be reported to a regulator?

October 04, 2018 on chapter Supervision of safe work
Does a supervisor always need to be on duty?

At our concrete panel construction factory, from around 5:30pm (when the factory supervisor finishes) until concrete panels are finished, there are 3–4 employees who stay until the end of the process unsupervised. We ensure there is always a first aider with them, but should a supervisor stay with them as well? They are all fully trained and competent in what they do.

February 04, 2017 on chapter Traffic management
What can we do if our office landlord is failing to meet their duty of care?

Recently, we had an incident report submitted by an employee based at an office facility we lease in northern Sydney. The incident related to a near miss with a pedestrian in the office carpark. Prior to this incident, our company had raised issues with the property managers about the parking area and what was assessed to be inadequate provisions for safe pedestrian and vehicle access. We share the office facility and carpark with other lessees.

To date, the response from the property manager has been inadequate. We wish to escalate the issue, and to do that we want to confirm the responsibilities and duty of care of these parties.

Chapter T1 of the Handbook is written principally around the scenario where the PCBU has complete control of the area in question. Can you provide some clarity and additional information on this topic?

October 04, 2018 on chapter Training and induction
Are online inductions simply no more than just a box-ticking exercise?

Many organisations provide contractor inductions through an online system that the contractor completes before they come on site. Given that a contractor may do a site induction some weeks before attending the site, and have probably attended other worksites and inductions in between, is this a credible way to deliver inductions that would hold up in court? To me it seems like a box-ticking exercise that could easily be interrogated and found inadequate.

October 05, 2015 on chapter Unions
Can you clarify who can demand access to a workplace without prior notification?

We wish to provide a short summary to our reception staff on rights of entry in relation to the following people:

    • health and safety inspectors;
    • Fair Work Inspectors;
    • union delegates or representatives; and
    • any other person purporting to have authorisation.

Naturally, we are aware that all licences and authorisations should be requested. However, we are unsure who can demand access to the workplace without prior notification.

September 05, 2015 on chapter Unions
When can union representatives act for their workers in disciplinary matters relating to health and safety?

When do we have to allow workers access to union representation when disciplining them in relation to safety in the workplace?

July 10, 2021 on chapter Vehicle safety
Is it safe to use Uber for work?

What health and safety considerations are there in relation to employees using the Uber service for business? We want to make sure we have covered all legal obligations before writing it into our policy that employees can use Uber for business-related travel.

April 03, 2019 on chapter Vehicle safety
What is ‘executive due diligence’?

I would like to understand what ‘executive due diligence’ means. Could you please provide me with a definition?

October 04, 2018 on chapter Vehicle safety
Do school vehicles have a lifespan?

Our Queensland college has its own vehicles to transport students, equipment and trailers to excursions and events. All vehicles are maintained as per scheduled services and are in good condition. Is there a legal requirement or recommendation to replace a school vehicle at a certain age?

October 04, 2016 on chapter Volunteers
Does our duty of care apply to our staff when they volunteer for another organisation?

One of our organisation’s business plans is an environmental impact strategy. One recommendation was to volunteer for local environmental programs / initiatives. As a result, we have consulted with our local council with a plan that our staff can volunteer to assist with the rehabilitation and re-vegetation of an area of a local river. The council has its own insurance cover, safe work method statements and risk assessments for volunteers, and we have agreed that staff can volunteer during working hours and will continue to be paid by us. Who is responsible for their overall safety?

July 10, 2021 on chapter Workers' compensation
Is a return to work plan needed for personal injury?

If an employee has an injury that is not work-related, do we have to put together a return to work plan to ensure they do not injure themselves further at work?

September 25, 2020 on chapter Workers' compensation
Should NT be included for a journey claim?

Should the Northern Territory be included for a journey claim? I understand that a journey claim occurs where workers’ compensation is claimed for a personal injury received by an employee on their journey to and from their place of residence to work.

But for a journey claim to qualify there can be no interruption to the journey or substantial deviation made for any reason unconnected with the employee’s employment. If the journey is interrupted the journey will not qualify for cover.

Journey claims can be claimed in the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland, but are not covered in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia (although other options for claiming compensation apply through statutory or common law rights).

April 03, 2019 on chapter Workers' compensation
Are employees covered by workers’ compensation for travel to and from work?

Are employees covered by workers’ compensation for travel to and from work (regular business hours)? Are employees covered for work-related travel outside business hours, e.g. travel to or from the office on the weekend or to the airport to pick up a consultant?

October 03, 2019 on chapter Working at heights
Are rails an adequate risk control measure to prevent falls?

We have a wash waste water pit with a rail on two sides; however, workers still get in and stand on the edge to move the pipe around to suck up the water at the end of the day after washing the floor. Should we have any kind of grate or cover, or are the rails an adequate risk control measure.

January 04, 2017 on chapter Working at heights
Do ladder rungs need a rating?

In circumstances where a person is ascending a vertical ladder, using a full body harness/twin tail lanyard fall arrest system and using the ladder rungs as anchor points, do the ladder rungs have to be rated the same as other designated anchor points in accordance with AS/NZS 1891.4 2009 Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices; selection, use and maintenance (i.e.: 12 Kn for limited free fall-arrest)?

April 03, 2021 on chapter Working from home
Do home-based workers need first aid kits?

Do all workers who work from home need to be issued a first aid kit and be a qualified first aider? Our business is in Queensland.

February 09, 2021 on chapter Working from home
Are we required to pay for a worker’s health and safety home office purchases?

Our workers typically work from home but have access to the office should they wish to use it. Some workers come into the office on occasion but most do not. If a worker requests an item of equipment for the home office for health and safety reasons, what are our obligations in terms of funding the purchase? For example, supplying a sit-stand desk for a worker’s home office because they suffer from chronic back pain.

December 03, 2018 on chapter Working from home
How do we ensure working from home conditions are safe?

We have a few employees working from home (in administration and IT) in other states and in remote locations. Could you please advise what procedures we are required to have in place to meet health and safety requirements?

September 05, 2015 on chapter Young workers
Are there age restrictions on heavy lifting?

We have young workers (aged 15 years and over) working with us. Are there any age restrictions in relation to heavy lifting? Our 15-year-old workers could be lifting around 12kg.

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