Work Health and Safety

Based on the contribution of Craig Dowling and Neill Campbell for The Law Handbook 2016, published by Fitzroy Legal Service, originally amended by ClareMcKenzie for the NT Law Handbook, as amended by Bradley Allen Love Lawyers, Canberra, by Gabrielle Sullivan, May Oboodi and Robert Allen and current to March 2018.

Statutory Work Health and Safety Obligations

In the ACT, employers must ensure their compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) and the related Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (ACT). In short, these legislative instruments provide that employers owe a duty to their workers to manage risks to those workers' health and safety arising from reasonably foreseeable hazards in the workplace.

It is important to note that these obligations are owed to workers, and are not limited to employees. Therefore non-employed workers (such as independent contractors) are also owed duties under the ACT's work health and safety legislation.

In addition to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, other pieces of ACT legislation also impose statutory work health and safety duties on employers. These include: Breaches of these acts, along with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, can be reported to WorkSafe ACT, the compliance regulator for work health and safety in the ACT.

Furthermore, if an employee has been injured as a result of a breach of their employer's statutory work health and safety obligations, they may be entitled to make an application in the ACT Industrial Court for compensation from their employer.

Common Law Work Health and Safety Obligations

While legislation imposes statutory work health and safety obligations on employers, employers owe a common law duty of care to their employees. If an employee is injured due to their employer's negligence, the employee may be able to pursue a common law claim for damages against their employer. Employers should therefore ensure that they have taken all reasonable measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

Workers Compensation Insurance

In addition to imposing duties on employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees to a reasonable degree, work health and safety laws also impose an obligation on employers to hold workers compensation insurance covering their employees.

Employees who are injured in the work place are entitled to compensation under their employer's workers compensation insurance, irrespective of the fault of the employer in the injury. Additionally, the injury does not necessarily have to occur at the place of work in order to trigger this entitlement. For example, injuries sustained during a journey to and from work are covered by the compulsory workers compensation insurance. This means that employees who are injured in car accidents on the way to or from work may be able to claim compensation under their employer's workers compensation insurance even though the accident was not the employer's responsibility.

It is important to note that Commonwealth and ACT public servants are generally covered by Comcare workers compensation. Specific procedures apply to compensation claims and payments under this scheme.

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