From industrial relations experts, TTIA

It is well worth clarifying exactly what outside authority has the power to visit your premises and their powers on workplace health and safety matters. As it currently stands, a Worksafe Inspector and Union officials with WHS entry permits have the right to enter a workplace to investigate reasonably suspected contraventions of WHS laws.

Worksafe Inspector Entry (Regulatory Authority)

What information do you have to give to the Worksafe Authority? Inspectors have the authority to investigate safety breaches, incidents, or complaints.

It is important to remember that the information you give may work against you in a prosecution. It is therefore very important to give clear and accurate information. Cooperate with them, however, be cautious in what you tell them.

You do have to give certain information, but other information may not be relevant. For example, your opinion of why an incident occurred is not relevant. It may be wrong.

Some information should be given without hesitation. All WHS regulators have agreed that the following information should be collected as a minimum at the point of incident notification-

  • Details of person submitting the report
  • Nomination of the type of notifiable incident i.e. death, or serious injury or illness, or dangerous incident
  • Incident address, date and time
  • Details that describe the specific location of the incident e.g. section of the warehouse or the piece of equipment that the incident involved – to assist instructions about site disturbance.
  • Description of the incident.
  • Injured person’s name, salutation, date of birth, address and contact number.

Regulatory outcomes

Inspectors can do several things when on your site. These include –

  • Improvement notices: Notifying you of a safety issue and giving you a timeframe to fix it.
  • Prohibition notice: Closing your site until you fix an issue.
  • Prosecution: Commencing legal proceedings in the relevant State court, which can end in fines and/or a criminal conviction for the PCBU/Officers/Workers, depending on the severity of the offence and the State/Territory in Question.

Union officials – Entry

Giving notice

A WHS entry permit holder (who may be a union official) is not required to give prior notice when entering a workplace to inquire into a reasonably suspected contravention of the WHS Act. The permit holder may consult with relevant workers, warn people of a serious or imminent health and safety risk, inspect relevant work systems, and inspect and copy documents relating to the suspected contravention that are held by the person conducting the business at that workplace.

If a WHS entry permit holder wishes to inspect or take copies of employee records or information held by a person other than the business, the entry permit holder must give 24 hours’ notice to the business and the person from whom documents, or records, are sought.

A WHS entry permit holder is also required to give at least 24 hours’ notice to the business before entering a workplace to consult on WHS matters and provide advice on those matters to relevant workers.

NSW and ACT – union right of entry has been broadened to include entry for advising and assisting on WHS (with 24 hours’ notice to inspect employee records or other documents, or to consult and advise workers).

From industrial relations experts, TTIA

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