Legal obligations in respect to workplace hazards Essay Example

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Legal Obligations in Respect to Workplace Hazards

Legal Obligations in Respect to Workplace Hazards

1.0 Describe the OHS legal framework

  • Main goal of Australian occupational health and safety laws is preventing disease, injury and death at the place of work; compensating employees injured at work; and rehabilitating employees suffering occupational disease or injuries.

  • The framework seeks to promote safe and healthy work environments and all employers are expected to take reasonable care for their employees’ welfare, safety and health. In all Australian jurisdictions save for Queensland and New South Wales the duties of the employer is the same, whereby they are expected to reasonably take practicable steps in protecting the safety as well as health of all workers (ALRC, 2003).

  • Even though the general duties concerning workplace standards, regulations, health and safety, as well as codes of practice are imposed by OHS legislation, the legislation also offer a comprehensive guidance and regulation, normally with regard to particular hazards.

  • The OHS legal framework needs that WorkSafe offers manageable guidance and advice concerning what constitutes adherence to the Act as well as Regulations. Normally, this is realised through the OHS compliance framework.  

  • The approach of risk management underpins the national standards created by National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and is espoused by states and territories under occupation health and safety legislation.

 Legal obligations in respect to workplace hazards

Fig 1: The key elements of OHS legislation (source;

2.0 A brief overview of the OHS Act and Regulations

  • The workplace health and safety in Victoria is governed by a set of compliance codes, regulations and laws that outline the employers as well as employees’ responsibilities so as to ensure a safe working environment.

  • Basically, the Act (Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004)is Victoria’sbasis of administrative and legislative measures for improving occupational health and safety. The Act outlines the OHS key rights, duties and principles (WorkSafe Victoria, 2014).

  • The duties general nature enforced by the Act connotes that they cover a range of circumstances. A number of principles have been set out by the Act; the significance of health and safety needs that employees and the public to be protected from health and safety risks.

  • According to the Act, employers together with self-employed individuals have to be proactive, and take every measures that is reasonably practicable in ensuring health and safety at work as well as in the undertakings conduct. Imperatively, both employees and employers according to the Act must exchange ideas and information concerning health and safety risks as well as measures needed to reduce or eliminate those risks.

  •  Legal obligations in respect to workplace hazards  1

Fig 2: OHS Framework (Source;

  • The OHS Regulationsspecify how to perform duties imposed by the Act and prescribes administrative or procedural matters for backing the Act, like the need for licenses for particular activities, alerting about particular matters, or keeping records.

3.0 Harmonisation of Australia’s WHS Laws and Its History

  • Harmonisation means all states and territories will have their own safety laws, but must focus on the established model. In view of this, Australian governments have implemented laws so as to harmonise OHS laws throughout Australia with the goal of promoting equal standards and protection to employees in all jurisdictions.

  • Attempts to create a national OHS policy started in 1985 with the formation of National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC), which was a multilateral body that consisted of representatives of all Australian governments and of trade unions as well as employers.

  • In 1991, an agreement to form nationally uniform OHS standards with regard to dangerous goods was reached. In the same year, national standards that would uniformly be adopted by State and Territory governments were developed.

  • In 2002, the National Occupational Health and Safety Strategy: 2002–2012 was formulated by NOHSC, and in 2005, the Australian Safety and Compensation Commission (ASCC) replaced the NOHSC.

  • OHS harmonisation was considered a top priority in 2008 during the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, where the National OHS Review was endorsed with the goal of harmonizing the OHS legislation in five years period.

  • In the harmonisation process, the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council
    was to respond to national review recommendations and decide the ideal content and structure of a model OHS Act that could be espoused by all jurisdictions (Johnstone, 2008).

 Legal obligations in respect to workplace hazards  2

Fig 3; WHS key Elements (Source;

4.0 Defining key terms, such as reasonably practicable, duties of employer and employees, due diligence

  • Reasonable practicable can be described as the knowledge concerning means of minimising or eliminating the hazard or risk.

  • The primary duty of the employer is ensuring employees’ health and safety while at work. The employer should ensure that the work carried out have no risk to the safety as well as health of others (Australian Business Solutions Group, 2014).

  • The primary duty of the employees is taking reasonable care for their safety; by ensuring omissions or acts do not harmfully affect other people’s health and safety.

  • Due diligence can be defined as taking reasonable steps in order to achieve as well as update knowledge of work health and safety matters.

  •  Legal obligations in respect to workplace hazards  3

Fig 4: Obligations of workers and other persons at work (source;

5.0 Health and safety representatives

  • Health and safety representatives (HSRs) are individuals elected to represent employees on matters of health and safety in a work group.

  • HSRs ensure the flow of information concerning health and safety between the employees as well as employer. Additionally, they monitor actions concerning the employees’ health and safety taken by the business and probe employees’ complaints.The

  • . (SafeWork SA, 2014)The HSRs can as well issue a ‘Provisional Improvement Notice’ (PIN) after they reasonably consider there is an infringement of the WHS Act 2011

 Legal obligations in respect to workplace hazards  4

Fig 5: Promoting safety in workplace (source;

6.0 Government and Other Agencies in Which Staff Could Approach In Order To Gain Further Advice and Assistance

  • Dome of agencies that staff can approach on issues about health and safety at work include; Safe Work Australia which develops national policy with the intention of improving employees’ health and safety at work and also makes arrangements for compensation across Australia.

  • Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner, which works with different stakeholders so as to achieve the highest possible OHS standards on Australian construction and building projects.

  • Other agencies include Safety People Australia, Comcare, the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health, and WorkSafe.


ALRC. (2003, May 30). Regulatory framework for occupational health and safety. Retrieved from Australian Law Reform Commission:

Australian Business Solutions Group. (2014). Health and Safety Duties. Retrieved from Australian Business Solutions Group:

Johnstone, R. (2008). Harmonising occupational health and safety regulation in Australia: The first report of the national OHS review. Journal of Applied Law and Policy, 35-58.

SafeWork SA. (2014). Health and Safety Representatives. Retrieved from SafeWork SA:

WorkSafe Victoria. (2014). Occupational Health & Safety. Retrieved from WorkSafe Victoria: