The presumptions out there around health and safety are out of this world sometimes, here are my top 5 Health and Safety myths busted!
1. As an employer, the new H&S At work Act 2015 means I am now responsible for my staff’s H&S when it used to be their problem.
False: There has always been an obligation for employers to keep their employees and customers safe, even under the old legislation. The difference is that there is a new term called PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) which broadens the reach beyond a traditional employer to organisations such as charities and local governments. There is also the term “officer” which includes people such as directors who now have to be actively involved in their businesses H&S processes. You can no-longer get away with taking a completely hands-off approach.
2. If someone so much as gets a paper cut, I will have to pay huge fines or go to prison!
False: While the new legislation packs a punch in regards to penalties for noncompliance, they are aimed punishing those whose workers are seriously injured at work. Injuries requiring hospital treatment, permanent disabilities resulting from an accident and or death are incidents likely to attract fines or in the worst case, prison. Large fines and or prison are generally considered where the PBCU has been negligent in having sound H&S procedures in place. Because the HSWA 2015 is so new, we are yet to see how the penalties will be applied.
3. Under the HSWA 2015, after work drinks are now banned and the Christmas party is a distant memory!
False: Health and Safety doesn’t have to be the fun police, you can still have after work drinks and of course the Christmas party. There is nothing in the legislation that states this and there absolutely nothing stopping you, all you have to do is be a responsible host and use common sense. Here are some examples;
– Make sure you have food when serving alcohol
– Make sure you have non-alcoholic drinks for those who are driving/don’t drink
– Don’t encourage a drinking culture, or serve anyone who is intoxicated
– Make sure you have someone sober and responsible keeping an eye on things
– Encourage the use of taxis
4. Under the HSWA 2015 I can’t supply milk in the break room in case someone is allergic.
False: You can certainly provide refreshments for your workers; it’s the right thing to do! Many people enjoy milk in their tea and coffee and to deprive them of that would result in world war 3! Those who have allergies are well aware of what they can and can’t eat/drink and they are in control of what they ingest, this is not your responsibility as an employer. You could supply an alternative if you were feeling generous but don’t let H&S hold you back from that well deserved cuppa!
5. Under the HSWA 2015 Heels and Jandals are deemed too risky and should be banned from the office in case someone trips or rolls an ankle.
False: Restrictions around footwear should only be in place if there is a real risk involved, let me paint a picture. If someone trips on their ill-fitting jandal in the office, is that a real concern? Are they really going to seriously injure themselves? Not really!
If someone is working in forestry and cut their exposed toes off with a chainsaw, is that a problem? Yes! Moral of the story, only put restrictions in place where it’s needed. We could all do with a little less red tape!