Work Health and Safety – and your rights

Health and safety is everyone’s concern

Every person has the right to go home from work without injury, and no one should fear for their mental and physical well-being simply because of work.

The AWU is committed to workplace health and safety (WHS) and constantly works to improve the overall standards of our industries.

This includes monitoring hazards such as working with heavy or hazardous equipment, dangerous, dirty and dusty conditions, and issues such as mental health, fatigue management, or bullying and harassment.

It’s the law

Each state or territory has its own WHS laws. But generally, employers have a legal duty to:

  • Provide a safe work environment.
  • Provide and maintain safe machinery and structures.
  • Provide safe ways of working.
  • Ensure safe use, handling and storage of machinery, structures and substances.
  • Provide and maintain adequate facilities.
  • Provide any information, training, instruction or supervision needed for safety.
  • Monitor the health of workers and conditions at the workplace.

Employers also have a legal responsibility to identify hazards, assess the risk of harm from those hazards, and introduce controls to eliminate or reduce the risk, so workers have the highest level of safety reasonably practicable.

And they must also:

  • Keep a register of injuries.
  • Make it clear to workers how to report and record injuries in the register.
  • Display information about reporting injuries (including timeframes) in a place all workers can see it.

What’s the law in my state? 

Every state and territory in Australia has differrent safety guidelines and codes. You can find links to the various state-based workplace health and safety websites for more information about health and safety at work in your state.

Workplace Standards Tasmania
WorkCover Tasmania
Safe Work Australia
Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities
WorkSafe ACT
WorkCover NSW
NT WorkSafe
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
SafeWork SA
WorkSafe Western Australia
WorkSafe Victoria

Doesn’t that cost a lot?

Creating a safe work environment is a legal requirement. It’s also critical to the long-term success of an organisation and can:

  • Help companies keep their hard-working staff.
  • Improve productivity.
  • Reduce injury and illness in the workplace.
  • Reduce the costs of injury and workers’ compensation.
  • Eliminate fines and legal penalties.

Safety is your job too!

You have obligations to yourself and others at work. It’s up to you to:

  • Take care of your own health and safety.
  • Take care not to do anything that can hurt others.
  • Follow WHS instructions, policies and procedures.

Although risk management is the duty of the employer, workers are critical to the process. You or your Health and Safety Representative (HSR) must be consulted throughout the process.

If you believe your employer is not managing health and safety risks adequately, contact your HSR or delegate, or join the union!

What is an HSR?

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) are elected by co-workers to represent them in health and safety matters.

By electing an HSR, workers get more of a say on health and safety issues and receive extra protection under the law. Simply put, workplaces with HSRs are safer workplaces.

HSRs are not expected to be technical experts or safety rule “enforcers”, but they can speak up for workers’ safety, monitor risks and investigate concerns. Their core roles include:

  • Represent members of their work group concerning WHS.
  • Monitor WHS compliance by their employer.
  • Raise WHS concerns with the employer on behalf of their workgroup.
  • Work to resolve WHS issues on behalf of their workgroup.

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a HSR for performing their role.

The AWU supports workers who want to train to become HSRs. For details contact your AWU delegate, or join the union!

What if I’m injured?

Under the law, an injury means physical or mental injuries, diseases or illnesses. All workplaces should have a clear system of reporting injuries or other health and safety issues.

If you are injured at work, you can enter the incident yourself in your workplace’s register, or ask someone else, such as your HSR, to do it for you.

If there is no injury register at your workplace your employer is not meeting their legal obligations.

Want more information? Speak with your HSR or AWU delegate, or join the union!

Should I keep working?

Make sure you report any safety hazard you have been or could be exposed to.

If you are not sure about a practice or process that you feel may be unsafe, contact your HSR or delegate who will help you decide what to do.

Trained HSRs have the right to issue provisional improvement notices and direct work to cease if there is an immediate or imminent risk to health and safety.

If you cease work due to unsafe working conditions, then you need to remember that you must be available to do other suitable duties – if it is safe to do so.

Still not sure? Speak with your HSR or AWU delegate, or join the union!

Safety means working together

By sticking together we can guarantee we’re in the best possible position to fight for safe workplaces, because every worker deserves to go home safe and well at the end of every day.

If you need help or information about health and safety, contact your HSR or delegate, or join the union!

Be a part of our community.

Join the AWU.

Stronger together.


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