Queensland's work health and safety laws
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) requires Department of Education (DoE) workplaces (including schools) to immediately advise Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) of notifiable health and safety incidents. This can be achieved by phoning WHSQ on 1300 362 128 - or by using the online MyHR system where available if possible to complete this immediately.
If workplaces notify by phone, WHSQ is to provide a reference number. All incident information, including the WHSQ reference number, is to be entered into the MyHR WHS system at your workplace to create a record. Refer to the
Notifing Incidents to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Flowchart for further information.
'Notifiable' health and safety incidents are now, by definition, much more serious incidents than under previous legislation, therefore, there will be less incidents that require 'notification' to WHSQ. Definitions and further information about incident recording are provided in the procedure
Health and Safety Incident Recording, Notification and Management.
On 26 May 2011 Queensland Parliament passed the
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (the
WHS Act 2011). The
WHS Act 2011 will apply to Queensland workplaces, including our department's schools and other workplaces from 1 January 2012. You can review the WHS Act 2011 online.
Are there any changes from previous legislation?
WHS Act 2011 is generally consistent with the repealed
Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 however there are a number of new concepts that will result in amendments to business processes. Importantly, everyone has health and safety duties to contribute to creating and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.
1. The role of Workplace Health and Safety Officer (WHSO)
One of the few significant changes was the legislative requirement for the appointment of a Workplace Health and Safety Officer (WHSO) is not included in the
WHS Act 2011.
The Department of Justice and Attorney-General through Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) developed a policy to retain WHSOs in government agencies, government owned corporations and public authorities from 1 January 2012. Our department called this role
Health and Safety Advisor (HSA).
Therefore, DoE retained the role through procedure
Health and Safety Advisors (HSAs).
Although a HSA does not have a statutory basis and does not have specific obligations imposed by the
WHS Act 2011, WHSQ has advised that under the
WHS Act 2011 a government worker assigned the role of a HSA will have the health and safety duty of a worker under section 28 of the
WHS Act 2011.
What remains the same?
In the role of a HSA - the person is not a primary duty holder under the
WHS Act 2011.
WHS Act 2011 like the repealed
Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995, places the primary duty for protecting people's health and safety upon the employer. In our case this is the Department of Education.
HSAs are part of a process and a team to support principals and managers implement health and safety strategies. Principals and managers are decision makers for a site; HSAs provide advice and assistance.
Are DoE HSAs offered legal indemnity and legal assistance, and will this continue from 2012 onwards when the new
WHS Act 2011 takes effect?
HSAs in DoE workplaces are provided with the same indemnity and legal assistance as all state employees, in accordance with the Guideline for the Grant of Indemnities and Legal Assistance to State Employees.
HSAs acting within the course of their duties and endeavouring to act diligently and conscientiously in discharging those duties have access to the same level of protection they have always had under processes for government employees. These systems are in place for all departmental staff and are independent of the legislation change.
What about training for HSAs?
Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) provide Health and Safety Advisor Training.
The qualification for a Health and Safety Adivsor is:
- Functioning as a Work Health and Safety Adviser Course
- Certificate IV - Work Health and Safety (WHS)
- Certificate IV - Occupational Health and Safety (with evidence of knowledge of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and associated legislation).
Staff with health and safety qualifications or experience may be eligible for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) or to undertake a bridging course to meet the minimum qualification. Assessments of eligibility will be determined by Registered Training Organisations.
Currency of skills and knowledge is to be maintained through the completion of refresher training every 5 years. For example:
- Recertification / Refresher courses - established by Registered Training Organisations (RTO) or
- Other courses or programs recognised by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
2. What are Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), Officers and Workers in relation to DoE Under the
WHS Act 2011?
- the Department of Education is a PCBU. This is unchanged from the previous legislation
- parent and citizen associations (P&Cs) which employ paid staff are a PCBU.
PCBUs are required to ensure,
'so far as is reasonably practicable':
- the health and safety of workers (including volunteers, contractors and contractors' workers)
- that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.
A new duty holder in the legislation is an 'Officer'.
In accordance with advice received from WHSQ and guidance material released from Safe Work Australia, we can confirm that Officers under the
WHS Act 2011 include:
- the Director-General of DoE
- members of the DoE Executive Management Group
- the P&C President and members of the P&C executive in respect of a P&C which employs paid staff.
Officers of the PCBU have a duty
'to exercise due diligence' to ensure that the PCBU complies with its health and safety duties under the
WHS Act 2011.
All staff have duties as workers under the
WHS Act 2011. The term 'worker' under the
WHS Act 2011 applies to any person who carries out work in any capacity for a PBCU and includes employees, volunteers, contractors and contractors' workers.
Workers have a duty to
'take reasonable care':
- for his or her own health and safety
- that his or her acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.
Staff in supervisory roles (including Regional Directors, Assistant Regional Directors, School Principals and Managers) should be mindful that their decisions have the potential to affect a large number of individuals' health and safety and thus the duty to
'take reasonable care' extends to these decisions.
Policies and Procedures
The purpose of Legislation?
To make Queensland workplaces healthier and safer, you must fulfil your duties under the
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld).
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) sets out the laws regarding health and safety requirements for workplaces and work activities in Queensland.
If a regulation exists for specific risks at your workplace, you must do what the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld) says to prevent or minimise the impact of the risk.
If there is a
Code of Practice about a risk at your workplace, you must either:
- comply with an approved code of practice under the
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), or
- follow another method, such as a technical or an industry standard, to manage hazards and risks, as long as it provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety to the standard required in the code.
If no regulation or code of practice exists about a risk at your workplace, you must choose an appropriate way to manage exposure to the risk, take reasonable precautions and exercise due care. This is usually achieved through a risk management approach.
All staff have duties under the
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) to:
- take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety
- take reasonable care that his or her actions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons
- comply with departmental instructions and procedures.
How do legislation and departmental procedures fit together?
Departmental procedures and guidelines reflect the requirements of legislation, codes of practice, standards and supporting information.
Procedures provide mandatory information for schools and workplaces to follow.
Guidelines reflect good practice and represent the department's preferred position and are to be followed. If principals or managers do not follow a guideline the alternative actions taken need to achieve an equivalent or improved outcome in terms of safe practice. The alternative actions or procedures are to be documented.
Procedures and guidelines help departmental sites meet health and safety obligations by highlighting relevant legal requirements and detailing how these can be met.
Where do I find departmental policies and procedures?
The department's Policy and Procedure Register (also known as PPR) is the location to find all departmental procedures.
The Policy and Procedure Register is accessible via the OnePortal intranet (departmental schools and work sites only) and publicly through the department's internet site. These policies and procedures act as current departmental advice and supersede all previous documents.
Health and Safety related procedures are found on the
Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing Page.