Legal Duties & Obligations of Employers: Occupational Health & Safety

  • Creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s responsibility. But mental health is a leadership issue: Change has to start at the top. Business owners and organizational leaders play a critical role in driving policies and practices that promote mental health in the workplace. Leaders — whether they be employers themselves or their HR team — are the ones with the capacity to positively influence workplace culture, management practices, and the ultimate experiences of employees.

Employers don’t just have ethical obligations to their employees, but also legal duties. In Australia and New Zealand, there are guidelines for mental health, from an Occupational Health & Safety perspective.

These are your responsibilities as an employer:

  • Safe work environments : Employers must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and free of risks to help, as far as is reasonably practicable. Keep workplaces that you manage and control safe and free of risk. Employees who feel as though their health is threatened are likely to experience far greater levels of stress. A disorganized, hectic, or frenetic work site may be cause for growing anxiety.
  • Suitable facilities for welfare : Employers should have safe and clean areas suitable for employee welfare — restrooms, break areas, and other necessities. The more employees are able to rest and relax, the less likely they are to experience undue stress. Employees need to be able to take breaks from work, both to eat and to reset.
  • Proper employee training : Employees need to have the information, instruction, training, and supervision that they need to do their work in a way that is safe, without risks to their health. Better training leads to better, safer employees.
  • As few risks and hazards as possible : It’s understandable that any construction worksite is going to have some risks. But it is the duty of employers to reduce risks as much as possible. While employees may need to work with large, dangerous machinery, they should follow the proper processes and procedures, and the equipment should be well-maintained.
  • Incident notification : Any notifiable incidents that happen in the workplace should be reported to WorkSafe. This level of accountability ensures that incidents aren’t going ignored and that anything that has to be addressed will be addressed.
  • Employee health monitoring : Employee health should be tested relative to the risks they experience. As an example, if employees are exposed to high levels of noise, they should be provided with hearing tests.
  • Monitor the conditions of the workplace : Without close monitoring of the environment, an employer cannot tell if risks have escalated or if known hazards have been properly addressed. Consequently, it’s the employer’s responsibility to carefully monitor the conditions of the workplace and address issues as they occur.
  • Maintain thorough records regarding health and safety : Records provide a paper trail in the event that an incident does occur. It also ensures that incidents can be addressed correctly. Information on employee health, for instance, can be used to determine better whether an employee may have been exposed to hazards on the job.
  • Employee or engage people qualified in OHS : Occupational Health & Safety is an entire discipline unto itself. Employers need to hire those who are experts within their field to advise them. Otherwise, they may not be able to identify their own gaps.
  • Consult employees on matters that may directly affect their health, safety, and welfare : Employees know their own processes, job, and limitations the best. Often, they may have the best insights on what an employer can do to protect them from hazards.
  • Ensure that the conduct of your business doesn’t endanger other people :  That includes visitors, the public, and other workers.

What happens if you don’t meet these requirements? If your organisation is found to be negligent in terms of employee health and safety, you could deal with substantial fines and penalties — or even lead to prosecutions as a result of more serious offences. You have additional, specific obligations if your business involves the manufacture, importation, transportation, supply, storage, handling, or use of dangerous goods or substances. You may also have obligations to meet particular licensing, registration, and certification requirements.

Occupational Health & Safety governs quite a lot, and employers need to be familiar with their requirements if they are to protect their employees and their business. Employers should consider connecting with a knowledgeable OHS partner to help them on their pathway towards compliance.
Learn more about our leading Mental Health and Behaviour Change programs today.

What challenges does it tackle?

Reducing onsite accidents

These cost Australian businesses $61.2B a year.

Reducing onsite accidents

These cost Australian businesses $61.2B a year.

Reducing onsite accidents

These cost Australian businesses $61.2B a year.

Reducing onsite accidents

These cost Australian businesses $61.2B a year.

How it works

Our qualified professionals coach and educate your team to recognise your body’s warning signs that signal it’s time for a physical and mental reset. Delivered onsite, your team can put theory into action within their own work environment, which increases uptake and memorability while recruiting champions from within your team helps the change become part of the culture.

We understand every workplace is unique, so we use a 4-step approach to understand exactly where we need to focus.