Occupational safety and health

The applicable Western Australian legislation is the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and its associated Regulations (collectively referred to as the OSH Laws).

The objects of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 include to:

  • promote and secure the safety and health of persons at work;
  • protect persons at work against hazards;
  • assist in securing safe and hygienic work environments;
  • reduce, eliminate and control hazards to which people are exposed at work; and  
  • foster co-operation and consultation between employers and employees in the formulation and implementation of safety and health standards.

An incorporated association is required to comply with OSH Laws by providing a safe and healthy work environment. It is important for incorporated associations to take note of the rights and duties in the OSH Laws, and to comply with the relevant provisions concerning safety requirements.

Duties of employers

In addition to a general duty to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment, under the OSH Laws, employers also have specific obligations.  In summary, those obligations include, so far as is practicable, to:

  • provide and maintain workplaces, plant and systems of work so that employees are not exposed to hazards;
  • provide such necessary information, instruction and training to, and supervision of, employees so that employees can perform their work safely;
  • consult and cooperate with safety and health representatives and other employees on occupational safety and health matters;
  • provide employees with adequate personal protective clothing and safety equipment, where it is not practicable to avoid the presence of hazards at the workplace;
  • ensure the safe use, cleaning, maintenance, transportation and disposal of plant in the workplace;
  • ensure that the use, handling, processing, storage, transportation and disposal of substances in the workplace is carried out, such that employees are not exposed to hazards; and
  • immediately notify the WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner if an employee at a workplace suffers an injury that results in death, or an injury of a kind prescribed in the Regulations (e.g. fractured skull, spine or bones, some amputations and any injury that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, is likely to prevent the employee from being able to work within ten days of when the injury occurred).  Access the Worksafe website to obtain information about the process involved.

Incorporated associations that engage contractors owe these obligations to contractors.

Under the OSH Laws, associations may also have obligations to people who are not employees or contractors at the workplace (e.g. volunteers, visitors), including ensuring that these people are not exposed to hazards.

Further obligations under the OSH Laws may apply depending on the nature of the incorporated association's activities.

Rights and duties of employees and contractors

Employees and self-employed people (contractors) have a responsibility under the OSH Laws to take reasonable care to ensure his/her own safety and health at work, and to avoid adversely affecting the safety and health of others.

Employees also have specific obligations under the OSH Laws.  In summary, these obligations include to:

  • cooperate with their employer to ensure that the workplace is safe and healthy (eg by complying with the safety procedures and guidelines);
  • comply with safety and health instructions provided by their employer;
  • use the personal protective equipment provided in the manner instructed by the employer; and
  • report hazards and injuries to their employer.

Employees also have some important rights under the OSH Laws. In particular, they have:

  • the ability to request that their employer have an election to establish safety and health representatives at the workplace. (Refer to the guidance note, Formal Consultative Processes at the Workplace, available at the Worksafe website for more details);
  • the ability to request that their employer establish a safety and health committee at the workplace. (Refer to the above mentioned guidance note for more details);
  • the right to receive adequate information, instruction, training and supervision so as to be able to work safely, under their employer’s general duty of care;
  • the right to be consulted about safety and health at the workplace, under their employer’s general duty of care; and
  • the right to refuse to undertake work if they have reasonable grounds to believe that working would expose them, or any other person, to a risk of imminent and serious injury or harm to health, and receive the normal pay and benefits they would be entitled to if working. However, their employer may give them alternative work and it is an offence to leave the workplace without the employer’s authorisation.