It’s your employer’s responsibility to provide you with a safe and healthy workplace. Unsafe work environments can cause serious physical and mental health complications for workers so it’s important that you feel safe at work – both physically and mentally.
Health and safety laws differ across states and territories across Australia, but every worker has the right to a healthy and safe work environment. For more information about workplace health and safety requirements in your state click here.
What workplace safety looks like
People who feel accepted and safe in the workplace are happier and more productive. Teamwork requires trust, and when people feel threatened, unsafe or unhappy that trust isn’t there, so it’s in every employer’s best interest to ensure that the working environment is safe for all workers. Employers can be investigated and fined for not providing a safe working environment and all employers are encouraged to provide systems to avoid injury or harm before it occurs.
Employers are required to:
- create a safe work environment
- provide rest breaks for workers
- assess risks and implement ways to avoid them
- ensure safe handling of dangerous goods
- provide safe machinery
- provide suitable facilities for employees
- have insurance and workers compensation insurance
- provide information about how to report unsafe conditions
- have policies in place to deal with harassment, discrimination or bullying
What can go wrong in an unsafe workplace?
Injury – If you are injured while working you should notify your employer as soon as possible, either by completing an incident report (provided by your employer) or by writing a letter. Workers who have sustained an injury should visit a doctor as soon as possible. If you are unable to work due to your injury you may be eligible for workers compensation until you are well. For more information about workplace injuries visit: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/.
Workplace bullying – Bullying is any repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed at someone in the workplace. Bullying can threaten a worker’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and should be taken as seriously as any physical risk to an employee. Bullying can include intimidation, unreasonable demands, unfair rostering or allocation of work, abusive language, being threatened, and being ignored or excluded. If you are being bullied at work, you should let your boss know so that they can address the situation.
Harassment and discrimination – Bullying can sometimes take the form of harassment on the grounds of discrimination. That is when the target of bullying is being bullied because of their gender, health, sexuality, ethnicity, age, disabilities or religion. Workers who are experiencing discrimination should discuss the issue with their employer and if matters don’t improve can lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
What to do if you’re not feeling safe at work
Before going straight to your state or territory’s peak safety body, it’s best to raise any concerns with your workplace, starting with:
- reporting the issue to your supervisor or manager
- reporting the issue through your workplace’s safety reporting procedures
- raising the issue with your workplace health and safety representative
- raising the issue with management through your union representative
If you don’t feel satisfied with the response via the above steps, then get in touch with your relevant peak body, which you can find details on here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
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