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The myriad of Acts, Regulations and Codes that apply to your business can be overwhelming – but understanding them is crucial to protecting your workforce and business. Often, an information overload can prevent people from gaining a clear understanding of their legal obligations, so we’ve created a five step process to simplify the process. Follow these steps and equip your business with the necessary practices to avoid legal troubles and unseen loopholes.

We recommend organisations adopt a continual learning program that ensures it can anticipate, monitor, learn and respond, creating a foundation of organisational resilience. 

Step 1 - Establish a legal requirements library

A controlled library must be created with complete copies of all OHS / WHS acts, regulations, codes of practice, and Australian Standards that are relevant to your organisation for Commonwealth, State, local government and statutory authorities.

A system must be established to keep the library up-to-date and ensure that any amendments are noted. Copies of documents in the library must be easily accessible to personnel who need them.

Step 2 - Advise Directors and Managers of their responsibilities

In many jurisdictions, ‘lack of knowledge’ will not constitute a valid legal defence. It is therefore critical that Chief Executives, General Managers, Managers and Supervisors ensure that all personnel are provided with clear communication on all matters relating to legal obligations and WHS.

Managers need to be formally advised that in jurisdictions where industrial manslaughter is in force individuals can face imprisonment if found guilty of industrial manslaughter (i.e. a fatality, where criminally reckless or criminally negligent behaviour on the part of the officer has been proven).

Managers must be formally advised that jail sentences can be given to offenders for ‘gross negligence’ – that is, where there was a disregard for the likelihood of death or serious harm occurring and, where death or serious injury did result from the contravention. Executives and Senior Managers should participate in a continuous learning program, Due Diligence and Manager Supervisor WHS Training

Step 3 - Ensure government authorities and right of entry procedures are understood

In Victoria for example, legislation dictates that approved inspectors from authorities must be given right of entry, the requested information and the required cooperation. Authorised representatives of a registered employee organisation (ARREO) with an approved and valid Entry Permit must also be allowed on to the premises.

Entry Permits are valid for three years and must include at least the following:

  • the name of the authorised representative
  • the name of the registered employee organisation of which the authorised representative is a permanent employee or officer
  • the address of the registered employee organisation or relevant branch of the organisation
  • a passport sized photograph (no more than 6 months old) of the authorised representative
  • the date of issue of the entry permit
  • a unique number that identifies the entry permit

Managers must be advised that in such cases, these persons have the legal right to enter the premises if they suspect an OHS contravention relating to or affecting work that is being carried out by persons:

  • who are eligible to be members of the registered employee organisation
  • whose employment is not subject to a certified agreement by which any registered worker organisation is bound

Corrective Action notices must be strictly adhered to and any changes must be made promptly, within the set time limit. Where required by legislation, the authority must be notified once compliance with the notice has been achieved.

Step 4 - Obtain relevant licences

Businesses must ensure that all required licences are obtained, kept up-to-date and complied with. This must include licences from the EPA for dangerous goods, radioactive substances and any other applicable licence. In some cases, you may be required to obtain long-term licences for 5 or 10 years.

Activities scheduled by legislation must be notified to the appropriate authority (e.g. WorkCover Authority, EPA, Department of the Environment, etc) within the specified time.

Such activities may include:

  • Storage of dangerous goods
  • Storage of hazardous wastes
  • Any other activity as specified by the relevant legislation

Civil Penalties

Managers must be advised that in some jurisdictions, the EPA is entitled to impose civil penalties for less serious environmental offences, either directly or by application to the Environment, Resources and Development Court.

Step 5 - Constantly evaluate compliance

Procedures must be established, implemented and maintained for periodic evaluation, making sure that appropriate legal obligations are kept up to date. Full records must be kept of the outcomes of such evaluations. We recommend an independent external WHS Professional conduct regular WHS audits to verify the implementation of controls and review the adequacy of the management system on a regular basis.

General advice warning

The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions.

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