Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 105 – Update to Workplace Safety and Health

New work health and safety laws commenced in New South Wales, Queensland, the ACT, the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory on 1st January 2012. Western Australia and Victoria have yet to ratify the new Workplace Safety and Health Laws. So why am I bothering to tell you about it now, after all, it doesn’t apply to you. Well, it will apply, although we don’t know when as yet, we just thought you might like a heads-up.

In July 2008, the Council of Australia Governments formally committed to the harmonisation of work health and safety laws by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety (IGA).

The model work health and safety legislation consists of an integrated package of a model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, supported by model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, model Codes of Practice and a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

Safe Work Australia is the national policy body responsible for the development and evaluation of the model Work Health and Safety laws. The Commonwealth, states and territories are responsible for regulating and enforcing work health and safety laws in their jurisdictions.

Under the IGA, all jurisdictions have committed to adopting the model work health and safety legislation, with minor variations as necessary to ensure it is consistent with relevant drafting protocols and to achieve consistency with other laws and processes operating within the jurisdiction.
What this does mean to you:
I have been reviewing our Registrants Handbook over the last couple of weeks to make sure the information is correct. As usual we did need to make some changes – some of the legislation which impacts all of us has changed and there will be some more to come with the Fair Work Act. Although as with all things government, this is a case of wait and see.
For those of you who are still registered with IEA for employment opportunities, the most up to date information is available for reading and / or downloading from our website. Click on the employment tab and then click on Login – type in the login name and password sent to you when you registered. You will see the documents in the “information documents” section on the right hand side. Please note, we do remove login information from those who are not currently registered for employment opportunities to ensure our database is always up to date.
If you don’t remember your login information, drop me an email and I will let you know what it is.
Working on Contract – What is the Host Employers Duty of Care?
Just a FYI for those who are not sure of the terminology:
A host employer, is the organisation to whom you are contracted. Information Enterprises Australia is your employer. However, when it comes to providing Duty of Care, both IEA and your host employer share the responsibilities for your safe working environment equally. It is also interesting to note, that:
The OH&S responsibilities to their contract staff (ie., YOU) by your host employer is exactly the same as the OH&S responsibilities they have to their own employees.  They have a Duty of Care to those people who are working on their premises to:
•Provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work;
•Identify potential hazards in the workplace;
•Provide mechanisms to address safety & health hazards;
•Provide ongoing safety & health training, information, instruction and supervision;
•Provide personal protective clothing & equipment (where necessary);
•Consult & cooperate with safety & health representatives & other employees regarding OH&S.

When you first register with IEA, we ask you to sit an approved Occupational Health and Safety assessment. We also provide you with a registrants handbook, and advise you (via email) of your login information which provides all up to date information including the latest editions of the handbook.

As you know, legislation is always changing and it is important to be aware of the legislation under which we all work.
The Duties of the Host Employer:
You should receive a site-specific induction, which includes being shown things such as the muster points as well as the loos and kitchen. Please be aware that the day you start a new position is the day you are most likely to have an accident. Why? Well everyone else knows about the dodgy step or the broken door, except you. So it is easily overlooked when they are showing you around the building for the first time. Try and keep your eyes open for anything that doesn’t look right and report it to the person who is supervising you (nicely of course).
Other issues to consider:
Safe Lifting Practices: Working on contract to a host employer, you may be tempted to rush a job, especially if the timeframe is a little tight. If this involves lifting and carrying, you may forget all about the safe lifting practices you were taught and end up hurting your back or other body parts. So don’t rush and use equipment that is provided.
Presenteeism: Or going in to work when you don’t feel up to the mark. As a contractor – as you know, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. If money is a little tight (and who isn’t feeling the pinch at the moment?!) you may be tempted to go to work regardless. A couple of points about this – if you are genuinely sick – then stay at home, and do not inflict your colleagues with whatever is ailing you. Depending on the duration of the illness of course you may need to supply a Doctor’s Certificate, and another one that clears you to return to work.
Don’t take on work without the contract first: This is absolutely essential. Please make sure you have a contract before you start work otherwise you may find yourself without workers compensation and public liabilities insurance.
And talking of insurance: If you are not on the clients premises during lunch or other breaks – you may not be eligible for workers compensation or public liabilities coverage should anything happen to you. Worthwhile considering before agreeing to join your host employers annual abseiling function.
With many thoughts