Preparing to engage workers – Occupational Health & Safety

One of the final things you need to do before engaging staff is to create a safe working environment for them.  You may feel that you have worked in this environment for a period of time already and therefore it is quite safe, but adding workers to the environment requires you to take a look around and do a proper check to make sure it’s a safe working environment.

Having a safe working environment for your staff will mean that your staff will feel safe and therefore potentially stay longer and have better productivity.

The cost of implementing safe practices and installing safety equipment may be costly at the start but the effect of not doing this can be quite severe.

Under OH&S law you are obliged to provide:

  • Safe premises
  • Safe machinery and materials
  • Safe systems of work
  • Information, instruction, training and supervision
  • A suitable working environment and facilities
  • Insurance and workers compensation for your employees

OH&S is different for all States/Territories of Australia, so make sure you find out the relevant laws in your State/Territory.

Self-Assessment

The first thing I would suggest you do, after reading a bit about OH&S from your State/Territory Advisor is to do a self-assessment on your business.  The WorkSafe Victoria website has a great self-assessment, called Do Your Own Inspection. They have a three step process:

  1. Find the Hazards
  2. Assess the Risks
  3. Fix the Problems

You can work your way through the three steps and by the end have a complete understanding about OH&S in your business and have made the changes you in your business that you need to make your workplace a safer place for your new employees.

Free OH&S Consultation

I am not sure if every State/Territory offers this, but WorkSafe Victoria offer free OH&S Consultations.  You can go to their website and request someone to come out to your business and do an assessment.

The assessment is about preparing your workplace to be better set up for OH&S, it is not about getting you into trouble.  It is a great idea to do this if you feel the self-assessment wasn’t good enough or if you feel you just don’t have the time to do a self-assessment.

Training

Creating Training Programs for your future staff will increase their skills, knowledge, productivity, morale and also help reduced workplace incidents.

By Law you are required to provide training on:

  • The nature of hazards
  • The processes used for hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control
  • The need for, and properly use, of measures to control risk
  • Safety procedures
  • The use, fit, testing and storage of personal protective equipment

If you get these training programs set up before you start employing staff, then the training can be part of their induction process and things will just flow easily.

Licensing

In many instances if your workplace undertakes certain activities, uses certain equipment or substances that pose a risk to workers or the public you and your workers will be required to hold a licence.

Have a look at your State/Territories WorkCover Website (see above) and what licences you and your staff are required to hold.  Make sure that you all have the correct licences, especially your new staff.  If there needs to be any refresher courses undertaken or upgrades in licences, make sure this is all done as soon as possible.

Insurance

If what you are going to pay your staff is more than $7,500 in a financial year, or if you have any apprentices or trainees, you MUST take out Work Cover Insurance, even if you only have one worker.

The easiest way to get insurance is to apply online on the WorkCover website of your State/Territory.  There are lots of insurance obligations, but once again these are listed on your State/Territories website.

The premium you pay is determined by your remuneration.  Remuneration is made up of the wages and other benefits you pay to your workers.  It is the gross about you pay to workers before tax and includes cash and non-cash payments.

You must advise WorkSafe/WorkCover of your forecasted remuneration each year and in July each year you must also advise them of the actual payroll figure.  If for some reason during the year your remuneration has a huge increase or decrease you should also advise them.

Paying for WorkCover can be quite expensive, I have clients who pay around $35,000 a quarter because the industry they are in is quite a high risk area.  But you really need to make sure you get it, if something happens to one of your staff members and you don’t have WorkCover the consequences would be horrific for you.  Both Mentally, because you can’t provide the worker with the correct care, and financially because you will be responsible for all expenses associated with that worker getting better.

Contractors & Workers

It is your responsibility to find out whether your contractors are considered workers by WorkSafe/WorkCover.  If they are you will need to include them in your remuneration assessment.

The term contractor covers a wide variety of people, including:

  • Consultants
  • Agents
  • Outworkers

They may operate as sole traders, partnerships, companies or through a family trust.

Each time you hire a contractor you need to determine if they are considered a worker by WorkSafe/WorkCover.  All the State/Territory WorkCover/WorkSafe websites have an assessment that you can undertake to help make this decision easier.

I strongly recommend that you do this assessment on each of your contractors, print it out and put it with their file, as well as have a copy with your remuneration calculations.

There is a lot more to learn about WorkCover/WorkSafe, like injury’s and claims, return to work etc, so I suggest you spend some time making yourself familiar with these, maybe not before you employ staff but some time just after they are employed so you know the processes involved if you ever need to use WorkCover/WorkSafe.

If you have any questions relating to this article or any others that you have read, please feel free to email me or contact me on Facebook or Twitter.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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