In many jobs, particularly in industries such as building, manufacturing and mining, your place of work poses a serious and very real threat to your health and well being. While we are very fortunate in Australia that workplace laws and regulations are very stringent, you cannot rely entirely on your employer to take responsibility for your safety. Raising concerns isn’t always easy, but it is important for you to take action when required.
Even the most stringent of employers don't have eyes on every physical corner of their business. Despite people often feeling uncomfortable about speaking up about safety concerns, it is in the best interests not only for yourself, but also for all of your colleagues that you do. For example, if you have noticed an uneven step on a staircase or a loose cable, it is important for you to point it out to someone who can get it fixed as quickly as possible. Even if it seems small, it could put yourself or someone else in danger if left unfixed. What might be a minor hazard now could become much more severe over time.
Workplace safety is not just about physical dangers either; it is about feeling capable of keeping yourself safe in your work environment. All employers in Australia are required to train their staff adequately. If you do not feel comfortable using a particular piece of equipment, don’t be afraid to ask for training. Never work with equipment that you do not feel safe using.
Employers should also have proper processes in place for all areas of the business. Processes can ensure that certain safety standards are met, and can help avoid unnecessary dangers. However, processes aren’t always followed, particularly as employees can develop bad habits over time. If you find that the procedures in place are not being executed adequately by other employees or are simply not up-to-scratch, don’t be afraid to speak up and suggest that changes be made. Remember, if other people around you aren’t following correct safety procedures, you are just as at risk as they are.
In Australia, there are a lot of laws that help to protect the safety of employees. Spending some time getting to know these laws will give you a better understanding of what is and isn't acceptable in the workplace.
In Queensland, workers are covered by the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which is overseen by WorkCover Queensland to handle work injury claims. As well as various laws and legislation that cover worker safety, the Queensland Government has developed industry-specific codes of conduct, which take a more detailed look at the safety risks and recommendations for individual industries and job titles.
Have you noticed a breach in safety procedure? Not feeling comfortable with the level of workplace safety? You can't improve safety if you don't speak up. Start by raising your concerns to a supervisor or manager, and escalate it if necessary. If you are not happy with the resolution, consider seeking outside agencies to intervene.
For more information about your rights, you can contact WorkSafe Queensland.