Help, My Workplace is Risky!

23 May, 2017


Although “Risky Business” may have been cool in the 1980s it is not the place to be now. There are 35,000 workers’ compensation claims a year. That means every year about 2% of the Western Australian working age population make a claim. One would assume that there is some risky business going on.

In general terms the Occupational Health and Safety Act (WA) 1984 creates a requirement for employers to provide a safe work environment for workers. The Mines Safety and Inspection Act (WA) 1994 creates a similar obligation on operational, and in some cases, mines under construction. But it is not a one way street. Workers have a similar obligation to ensure that they act in a safe manner.

If you feel that you are undertaking work in a risky environment then inform your employer or direct supervisor. It is always best to do this formally in writing or in an email. People are more likely to act on something in writing than a verbal notification. Should something go awry it is of benefit to have a paper trail.

The way that an employer chooses to rectify a risk may not be in line with your expectations. There is an element of practicability and reasonableness to minimising a risk. For example if you are required to operate a circular saw to cut timber you may think that the best and only way to do this is to implement an automated computer operated cutting system that removes the need for human contact with the tool. For a small company this would be an impractical and costly response. A more reasonable approach would be to ensure the circular saw has a blade cover, people wear the appropriate personal protective equipment and proper training is provided. It is a case of horses for courses, keep this in mind when approaching your employer or supervisor.

If you genuinely don’t feel that your concerns are being answered by your employer you can contact WorkSafe or the Department of Mines and Petroleum.

At the end of the day there are not many jobs that are worth a lost thumb, crushed knee or back injury. We tend to change our jobs every five years but our injuries like to stick around, sometimes for a very long time.