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Regulation

Reducing physical risks and ensuring a physically safe workplace is a central component of Work Health and Safety legislation. All employees have the right to complete their job without being exposed to excessive risk of physical harm.

All persons conducting a business or undertaking in Australia (including employers, self-employed, principal contractors, persons with management or control of a workplace, designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant, substances or structures that are used for work) are bound by the Work Health and Safety Acts that mandate rules for managing physical hazards. Workers and other persons at the workplace also have duties under Work Health and Safety Acts. Health and Safety Regulations include more specific requirements for managing the risks of hazardous chemicals, airborne contaminants and plant, as well as other hazards associated with the workplace.

Work Health and Safety legislation in is not uniform across Australian states and territories. The Australian government provides information about current health and safety legislation for each state and territory.

A person conducting a business or undertaking must eliminate risks in the workplace, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Resource

Safe Work Australia have produced an approved code of practice under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act pertaining to how to manage work health and safety risks.

Physical hazards

Anything in the environment that can cause a body harm can fall under the category of Physical Hazards. Physical hazards include:

  • Emergency management plans
  • Facilities at work
  • Fatigue
  • Heat
  • High risk work
  • Noise
  • Hazardous manual tasks
  • Travel
  • Sedentary work
  • Vibration
  • Violence
  • Working alone
  • Slips, trips and falls

Some industries or work types have heightened and specific exposure to physical hazards (e.g. agriculture, road freight, welding construction, demolition, electrical, blasting, excavation work).

All persons conducting a business or undertaking in Australia (including employers, self-employed, principal contractors, persons with management or control of a workplace, designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant, substances or structures that are used for work) are bound by the Work Health and Safety Acts that mandate rules for managing physical hazards. Workers and other persons at the workplace also have duties under Work Health and Safety Acts. Health and Safety Regulations include more specific requirements for managing the risks of hazardous chemicals, airborne contaminants and plant, as well as other hazards associated with the workplace.

Further reading

Safe Work NSW have produced a set of resources to help workplaces navigate physical safety legal requirements.

Resource

ComCare provides guidance for each type of physical risk – including details of the risk and remedies.

Assess physical hazards

Safe Work Australia mandates a risk management approach to managing hazards in the workplace1.

Their four step process for managing risks is:

  1. Identify hazards – find out what could cause harm.
  2. Assess risksunderstand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.
  3. Control risksImplement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances and ensure that it remains effective over time.
  4. Review control measures  ensure they are working as planned.

Resource

Read more about approaches to managing workplace safety risks.

Hierarchy of control

Work Health and Safety Regulations make it mandatory for duty holders to work through this hierarchy when managing physical safety risks (and all risks). Businesses must always aim to eliminate the risk, which is the most effective control. If this is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by working through the other alternatives in the hierarchy2.

The hierarchy of control measures

References

  1. Safe Work Australia. Identify, Assess and Control Hazards. Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/risk
  2. Safe Work Australia. Identify, Assess and Control Hazards. Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/risk

Resource

Read more about the hierarchy of control measures by Safe Work Australia.