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The aim of this unit is to provide students with an overview of the NSW legislation that protect workplace health and safety, and how it impacts on the management of health and safety in the workplace.
On completion of this unit of work, students will be able to:
Introduction to OHS
The Legal Framework
Roles and responsibilities
Enforcement of OHS laws
Managing occupational health and safety
The importance of occupational health and safety
Poor workplace health and safety affects the individual, the workplace and the
community. Many of the effects of injury or illness are not fully recognised and range
from minor inconvenience through to major consequences. Some of the effects include:
(Source: Background Information: Workplace Health And Safety, WorkCover NSW)
The challenge for all industrialised countries in the 21st century is to ensure that workers can lead healthy, stress free lives. Work should not make workers ill and if you are injured provisions should be in to place to assist you in your return to fitness and the labour market.
Governments throughout the world have developed legislation to protect the rights of workers. Governments have seen the need to establish legislation to provide a healthy and safe workplace in order to reduce the number of injuries and death that have occurred in the past.
Improved occupational health and safety can lead to improved productivity and a better working experience for all workers.
Young people and new workers
Statistics collected by insurers and submitted to WorkCover show that young workers between the ages of 15 and 25 are being hurt on the job every day. Young workers generally lack experience and are generally unfamiliar with workplace procedures.
For young workers, employers must provide information and training about work hazards and safe work practices that give consideration to young people’s age and experience.
Workers greatest at risk in the workplace include:
Young workers and new employees often have a greater chance of being injured at work.
A variety of factors may contribute to this higher risk factor:
In NSW in 2000/2001
Some of these injuries were minor, allowing rapid return to work. Others were major and more incapacitating. Some of the young people will never be able to go to work again!
(Source: Statistical Bulletin 2000/2001, WorkCover NSW)
Adequate information, training and supervision of health and safety must be provided to all new workers.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 clearly states that “in determining the nature and extent of necessary supervision, the employer must have regard to the competence, experience and age of each employee”. (Clause 14(3))
Each employer has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for all their employees. This includes risk management and training. Young workers must be trained to do their work in a safe manner from the first day of employment. The Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly states that employers must “provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure the employees’ health and safety at work.” (Division 1(8d))
Statistical data suggests that gender appears to be a significant factor in the incidence of workplace injury.
In 2000/2001 male injuries comprised 70.5% of all workplace injuries. This includes occupational diseases. (Source: Statistical Bulletin 2000/2001, WorkCover)
The statistics below show a constant trend for male injuries to be significantly greater than those for females. However there has been a steady increase in the number of injuries for females. This may partly be explained by an increase in the female workforce.
Number of workplace injuries, 1991/92 – 2000/2001
% Male Injuries
(Statistical Bulletin 2000/2001, WorkCover NSW and Statistical Bulletin Workcover NSW Statistical Bulletin 1998/99)
The cost of workplace injury and illness
Unsafe workplaces or work practices can have an enormous cost both financially and emotionally. The pain, suffering and death resulting from workplace accidents place a burden on families and the wider community. The financial cost to commerce and industry reduces competitiveness.
The consequences of workplace injury include:
Financial costs affect the worker, the wider community and the State.
In NSW in 2000/2001:
(Source: Statistical Bulletin 2000/2001, WorkCover)
The legal framework
All workers in NSW, including full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary and casual workers, are covered by occupational health and safety laws passed by the NSW parliament.
Under occupational health and safety laws, employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees at work as well as non-employees at the place of work.
WorkCover NSW manages the State`s workplace safety, injury management, and workers compensation systems. WorkCover NSW has the power to prosecute employers who fail to fulfill this duty.
OHS Legislation in NSW consists of an Act of Parliament and a consolidated regulation made under this Act. These are supported by various codes of practice .
The main Act which covers all health and safety in the workplace in NSW is the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 which came into effect from September 2001. It lays down the requirements for health, safety and welfare which must be met at all places of work in NSW. The Act covers self-employed people as well as employers and employees
Information and a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act is available from the web sites:
The Occupational Heath and Safety Regulation 2001 replaces all existing Occupational Heath and Safety Regulations, the Construction Safety Act 1912 and Regulations and Part Three of the Factories, Shops and Industries Act 1962.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 aims to support the Occupational
Health and Safety Act 2000 in achieving reductions in the incidence of workplace injuries and disease.
The Regulation emphasises a risk management approach. Under this risk management approach, there is a legal requirement to manage risks in the workplace.
Legal requirements include requirements to:
Regulations give details on how certain sections of the Act are to be implemented.
Regulations made under the OHS Act cover specific areas of work such as:
Information and a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 is available from the web sites:
Code of practice
Codes of practice give practical guidance on how the required standard of health, safety and welfare can be achieved in an area of work. They are approved under the OH&S Act by the Minister for Commerce and are published in the Government Gazette.
Sometimes Codes of Practice are ‘called up’ in Regulations and in these circumstances have the same legal force as the Regulation itself. Otherwise, Codes of Practice should be followed, unless there is an alternative course of action which achieves the same or better standard of health in the workplace.
They can be used in support of the enforcement provisions of the OH&S Act or as evidence to support a prosecution for failing to comply with or contravening the OH&S Act or OH&S Regulation.
In summary, an approved industry code of practice:
(Source: OHS Consultation: Code of Practice 2001, WorkCover NSW)
Examples of Codes of Practice are:
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 the employer must ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees when at work by:
(Source: Summary of the OHS Act 2000, WorkCover NSW)
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 the employer must:
(Source: Summary of the OHS Regulation 2001, WorkCover NSW)
Work experience and work placement students are considered to be “volunteers” while in the workplace. Students should observe the same responsibilities as normal employees to ensure their own safety and the safety of others in the workplace.
Under Section 21 of the OHS Act any person must not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse any personal protective equipment or anything else provided in the interests of safety. Students have a legal duty under this section of the Act and can be fined if they breach it. The maximum penalty is currently 30 penalty units for a first offence.
Under the Occupational Heath and Safety Act 2000, an employee must:
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001, an employee:
(Source: OHS Regulation 2001, Clause 28 (1) WorkCover NSW)
Other parties responsible for workplace health and safety
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 also outlines the responsibilities of other parties involved in the provision of a safe working environment.
In NSW, WorkCover Inspectors have the role of ensuring safe workplaces. They help employers and employees to understand their rights and obligations under occupational health and safety, injury management and workers compensation legislation. They also have a range of powers to enforce compliance with the legislation. WorkCover inspectors can enter any workplace at any time to conduct an investigation. Inspectors can issue investigation, improvement or prohibition notices. It is an offence to prevent an inspector from doing their job.
Inspectors are empowered to act under the:
Inspectors visit workplaces to:
Inspectors have the power to:
Inspectors are trained to advise employers and employees about the risk management approach to all aspects of occupational health and safety, injury management and workers compensation matters.
For example, they can give advice on how to:
(Source: Role of the WorkCover Inspector, WorkCover NSW)
WorkCover inspectors have the authority to issue penalties or fines and/or initiate prosecution for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001.
The maximum penalties for an offence under the OHS Regulation 2001 range from $2,200 to $27,500 depending on the type of offence (e.g. an administrative breach of the Regulation attracts a lesser penalty, while safety breaches attract higher penalties).
Penalty notices (on-the-spot fines) under the OHS Regulation 2001 range from $550 to $600 for employers, and from $1,100 to $1,500 for non-compliance with an Improvement Notice.
The maximum penalties under the OHS Act 2000 for an offence is:
The Court can also order offenders to do things, e.g. paying WorkCover costs of the investigation.
Managing workplace health and safety
Health and safety laws in NSW require employers to have in place a means to:
Consultation is a key feature of risk management since involving the people who do the work in identifying hazards and how to control risks is the most effective way to manage workplace health and safety. This also allows employers to meet their legal requirements on consultation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 sets out procedures to be followed in establishing and maintaining consultation with employees as well as for resolving matters that may present a risk to health and safety. The regulation also states the requirement for the employer to provide training for OHS committee members and OHS representatives.
Consultation is required:
Consultation can take place through an OHS committee, an OHS representative or using other arrangements that have been agreed upon by the employer and the employees.
Employers need policies and procedures in place to make sure that potential hazards and the health and safety of people in the workplace are addressed. An occupational health and safety management system is a documented, coordinated plan to make sure hazards and associated risks in the workplace are managed.
The six steps in creating an OHS management system are:
Plan to work safely
(Source: Risk Management at Work, Guide 2001, WorkCover NSW)
Student Activity 1: The cost of workplace injuries
Outcomes: Students will be able to:
Overhead transparency – Consequences of workplace Injuries
Handout - Consequences of Workplace Injuries
In some cases you may have to tick (ü) more than one column.
and place a tick (ü) in the appropriate column.
The cost of workplace injuries - Handout
Consequences of workplace
Loss of future earnings
Effect on family
Increased insurance premiums
Increased Medicare levy
Social welfare payments
Disruption to social and recreational activities
Letters to the editor
Ongoing pain and discomfort
Disruption to study
Loss of morale
Investigation by WorkCover
Reports in the media
Disruption to career planning
Workers compensation payments
Student Activity 2: The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000
Outcomes: Students will:
Students are to complete the student worksheets using the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 to help them with their responses.
The worksheets will cover the responsibilities of the employer and employee in relation to workplace safety and the role of the Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
The full Act can be found at:
This page lists the contents of each part of the Act. The Act itself is extensive, covering 142 sections providing information on:
Go to the website: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ohasa2000273/
Click on Item 3 in Part 1- Preliminary of the OH&S Act.
This section lists the objectives of the Act.
Below is a list of key words that you need to know the meaning of before you read the passage below. You may need to find their meaning in a dictionary.
assessed consultation safety
Read the passage and underline the key words in the appropriate sentence.
The objectives of this Act are as follows:
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 - Worksheet 2
Click on Item 8, Duties of Employers in Part 2 Duties of Employers - Duties Relating To Health, Safety And Welfare At Work, Division 1 - General duties
This section explains the legal requirements of the employer to provide a safe environment for their employees. Read through these requirements.
Answer true or false to the following statements by placing a tick ( a) in the correct column.
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