Secondary navigation

Module 1

Safety Legislation Responsiblity

As a supervisor you need to be aware of your legal responsibilities for safe work practices, communication, consultation and training.
You are required to provide safe work conditions for everyone under your span of control, meaning any area or person you supervise is your responsibility.
Not meeting your legal responsibilities could end with one of your workers getting injured. This in turn can lead to investigations by Safework SA, and even prosecutions. By keeping your work area safe you can avoid all of this.    

What are your responsibilities?

As a supervisor you have a duty of care to your workers. You are also legally required to: 

  • Provide and maintain a safe working environment, including safe equipment, tools and substances
  • Provide information, instruction, training and supervision to all employees
  • Monitor the conditions under your direct control, including the health, safety and welfare of employees,
  • Keep records of work-related injuries, hazards, incidents, and near misses

Remember if it falls under your span of control you are legally required to ensure it's safe.

Consequences of failing to comply with the WHS act

Under the Work Health and Safety Act of 2012 there are three categories which you as a supervisor can be fined under if you do not meet the safety standards the law dictates. If you recklessly endanger an individual, without reasonable excuse, and your recklessness leads to death, serious injury or illness of a person you may be fined under category 1. Category 1 carries a maximum fine of $300 000 with the possibility of 5 year maximum imprisonment.

If you fail at your duty to comply with safety and safety legislation and you expose an individual to serious injury, death or illness, you may be fined under category 2, which carries a maximum fine of $150 000.

The final category simply states that "if you have a duty to safety, and you fail to comply with that duty, you will be fined up to $50,000."

The maximum penalties your workplace can face under the work health and safety (WHS) laws range between $500,000 and $3 million, depending on the severity of the offence.

How to manage your responsibilities

Supervisors have important work, health and safety responsibilities, and need the appropriate skills and knowledge to meet these responsibilities.

As a supervisor you need the authority to make decisions and act on work, health and safety concerns. Learning what legislation directly affects you is a good first step to understanding your responsibilities. Talking to your safety manager about ways you can meet your requirements is a good way to build your understanding. Discussing problems with safety managers can present an opportunity to come up with a solution together. They may also offer further information which you may not have considered.

Familiarise yourself with the legislation that can affect you. Talk to your safety manager for further information about what exactly you are required to do. If you are unsure then you might be at risk.
It is up to you to ensure your work environment is kept hazard free, or hazards are at least managed to reduce all reasonable risk. It is also up to you to encourage others to look out for their own safety and the safety of others.

Some supervisors keep records of more than what is required legally. For example a record of conversations with workers about safety in the workplace is going further than the legal requirement. This may include making a record of what is discussed during prestart meetings or even brief conversations with workers about unsafe acts. Such records can assist in monitoring safe work practices of employees as well as protect you legally by demonstrating you have done all in your power to monitor and maintain safe practices.

Meeting Legislative Requirements

You have a wide range of tools and strategies available to you for meeting legislative requirements, many of which will be covered in later modules. However, here is a short list of methods which may help you achieve your legislative requirements;

  • Personally perform regular audits and safety checks. These are necessary to maintain a good awareness of what is really going on, and ensure you are familiar with all safe work procedures in your work area.
  • Ensure all team members have up-to-date safety training.
  • Encourage others to look out and report safety concerns.
  • Know the capabilities of your staff.
  • Liaise with your work, health and safety representatives and safety managers.
  • Familiarise yourself with the legislation that directly affects you
  • Keep records of safety related conversations with employees. If you record that you discussed a safety issue then you have proof of the action you have taken.
  • Explain the value of safety to employees rather than simply expecting them to follow instruction.        

People are much more likely to follow instruction if you can relate the problem directly to them.