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Occupational Health and Safety - Who Is Responsible?

Do You Feel Safe at Your Workplace?

In Australia we are lucky to enjoy freedom of speech, standard levels of pay, safe streets and safe work environments. Safe workplaces have been on the agenda for Federal Government for over 2 decades with the development and enhancement of workplace conditions for all areas of the working community.

Some jobs are more dangerous than others with risks to an employee's health threatened by hazardous substances. In other environments it may the job conditions that put them at risk of injury and in the worst cases death such as with mining or truck driving.

As a business owner you have a responsibility to provide healthy and safe environments for not only your staff but for the public as well.

Under occupational health and safety (OH&S) and new work health and safety (WHS) legislation (business owners) 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

On January 1 this year WHS laws were initiated to bring the states and territories in line across Australia to see them adhere to the same OH&S laws. However, each state and territory has their own responsibility with regards to enforcing the law. Employees can also do their part by reporting unsafe working environments to Government bodies such as safeworkaustralia.gov.au.

Employers and business owners not only have a responsibility to provide a safe physical environment but a social and emotional one as well. It is a key area to Workcover Compensation Claims that are overlooked by both employees and employers. Psycho-social issues in the workplace are a real and ever present concern for all involved.

Workplace bullying and stress are major factors in the issue of psychological injuries at work. They are becoming vital parts to the compensation puzzle as, per incident they are attributed more time off work and higher compensation payouts. In Commonwealth employment psycho-social complaints recently began to decline, but this decrease was attributed to the Rehabilitation and Compensation Act of 2007 which limited an employee's access to compensation benefits rather than improvements to psychological issue awareness.

Leadership styles have been noted as one of the biggest contributing factors to workplace psycho social issues. This in itself can prove the most difficult aspect. Employees feel alienated to report their issues if the factor causing it is the person they need to disclose to. It's a catch 22. Workers compensation lawyers can offer sound advice on the way to deal with such situations guiding you to the right people who will listen, document and advise.

Work makes up such a large part of our adult lives and when there are issues with it, it can affect every part of it. Worker injuries or compensation claims should not be ignored. You have a right to be not only safe and healthy in your workplace, but happy too.

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Anne Lee is a freelance technology journalist, a wife and a mother of two.