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Employer duty of care

Hi Bare Bones Consulting, I know employers have a duty of care but I’m wondering exactly what these “duties” encompass?

Great question! Let’s start with the definition, provide a link to the key legislation (for the nerds) then provide some suggestions on practical starting points to meeting your duty of care obligations.

What does “duty of care” mean?

Employer duty of care refers to the legal obligations to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of everyone in a workplace, including visitors.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) provides a framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers. It also protects the health and safety of others who might be affected by the work your business does. All workers are protected by the WHS Act

What’s required to meet you employer duty of care?

To meet your duty of care, you must:

  • provide a safe work environment
  • ensure safe use, handling and storage of machinery, structures and substances
  • make sure your facilities are well-maintained and at an acceptable standard
  • give your workers any information, training, instruction or supervision needed for safety
  • keep an eye on the health of workers and conditions at your place of work
  • keep an injury register
  • have a workers’ compensation policy and a return to work plan.

Where do I start in the whole “duty of care” thing?

WorkSafe Queensland recommends employers ask 7 questions to create a safer and healthier business:

  1. How committed am I to health and safety?
  2. Do I talk to my workers about health and safety?
  3. How well do I manage risks?
  4. Do my workers know what to do when an incident happens?
  5. Are my workers trained, supervised and competent?
  6. Am I providing a safe working environment?
  7. Do I have a workers compensation policy and a return to work plan for injured workers?

Got an example?

Let’s take one of the above questions and expand a little:

Am I providing a safe working environment?

A safe working environment means:

  • your place of work is designed to be healthy and safe
  • workspaces are safe and clean
  • emergency plans are in place and reviewed regularly
  • a fully stocked first aid kit is available
  • machinery and equipment operate safely
  • work is organised so that it doesn’t cause excessive fatigue, stress or conflict
  • mental health is a priority (from 1 April 2023 employers have to follow a new Code of Practice for managing psychosocial hazards at work)
  • chemicals are used, handled and stored safely
  • safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals are available and up to date.

Where can I go for information on work health and safety?

WorkSafe Queensland is the official home of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland as well as Electrical Safety Office, Workers’ Compensation Regulatory Services and WorkCover Queensland. It’ shared purpose is to provide information and services for work health and safety and workers’ compensation in Queensland.

Bottom line

Even if you’re self-employed, you’re legally responsible for the health and safety of yourself and everyone who visits your place of work. This includes workers, clients, visitors and volunteers.

Knowing where to start when it comes to compliance with your obligations as an employer is often challenging. Need some help? Give Bare Bones Consulting a call.

  • PO Box 3956,
    Burleigh Town 4220,
  • 07 5576 4693
  • 0401 279 065
  • Bare Bones Consulting

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.