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Take the first step

It is every employer’s responsibility to create and maintain a safe workplace. There are many tools, checklists and guides available to help businesses eliminate risks and hazards at work. The first step to complying with occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, and achieving a workplace free from risks and hazards is as simple as completing a checklist. Some good examples are:

  • The checklist on the Safe Work Australia website
  • The WorkSafe Victoria online tool called 'How safe is you workplace?' which enables you to audit safety in your workplace, identify which OHS areas you need to focus on, access tips on improving safety and read about injury 'hotspots' in your industry and how to avoid them
  • WorkSafe ACT’s checklists specific to different industries and workplace types

Workplace safety inspections

Regular inspections of your workplace will help you identify any unsafe conditions and control risks to workers. Armed with your checklist, schedule regular inspections, especially after an accident or a change in processes.

Talking with employees and discussing opportunities to improve safety can form part of your inspection. WorkSafe ACT recommends following these guidelines when conducting your own safety inspection:

  • Use a checklist to ensure that your inspection is thorough and consistent with previous inspections
  • Ask yourself what hazards are associated with the job that you are observing or that would be performed in that work area
  • Observe how workers perform tasks. Do they follow safe work procedures and use personal protective equipment, as required?
  • Ask workers how they perform their tasks
  • Talk to workers about what they’re doing. Ask them about concerns they may have about health and safety
  • Record any unsafe actions or conditions that you observe

WorkSafe Victoria provides a Safety Action Plan template, especially useful for smaller businesses, to keep track of the hazards you have identified and how they will be resolved.

Workplace safety inspections by your state or territory’s regulator

The workplace health and safety regulator in your jurisdiction is entitled to conduct safety inspections. The official inspector will carry photo identification and in some cases you may receive no prior warning of the visit. In Victoria, WorkSafe inspectors have legislated powers to enter your workplace during working hours, or when there is an immediate risk to anyone, to assess compliance with health and safety laws.

In most instances, the inspector’s role is to: 

  • Provide advice that helps you meet your legal workplace health and safety obligations
  • Offer constructive advice and guidance on how to fix any safety breaches

Inspectors may also have authority to collect samples, take measurements and conduct interviews to help them establish if there is a serious breach of standards.

Assessing risk

There are many proactive steps employers can take to assess and manage health and safety risks in the workplace, starting with their identification. The WorkSafe Victoria 'How safe is your workplace' online tool is an excellent starting point.

Safe Work Australia has also published a comprehensive document – ‘Managing risks to health and safety at the workplace fact sheet’ – which provides employers with guidance managing health and safety risks. It’s available in seven languages.