Health & Safety in the Workplace - Get Involved!

Anna Piatkowska , 30 March 2014

Anna Piatkowska invites members to participate in developing a set of guidelines for the profession. To get started she outlines the issues and asks, What are architects' duties as employers under occupational health and safety/work health and safety legislation? Does your practice have policies, processes and procedures in place?

Architects have duties under occupational health and safety/work health and safety legislation, not only as designers of structures, but also as employers. Legislation varies from state to state, with all but Victoria and Western Australia having enacted legislation that largely reflects the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Model Act). Victorian employers’ duties are set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), and those of Western Australian employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA).

Ample guidance to these acts is available online, however the ACA believes that a focus on architects as employers may help practices to establish policies, processes and procedures that create a simple, effective system for safeguarding employees’ health and safety at work.

To this end the ACA invites members to participate in developing a set of guidelines to assist practices to comply with their obligations as Employer (or PCBU). If you are interested, please contact Michelle Eades (nat@aca.org.au). The following questions will help members consider the issues.

Can you answer these questions?

Objectives for employees’ (or workers’) health and safety in the workplace
What are we trying to achieve?

Roles and responsibilities
Who in the practice has a role in relation to employees’ health and safety? What are their responsibilities?

Policy statement regarding Health and Safety
Have we articulated our policy? Does it include policies on site safety, working at home, discrimination, bullying, harassment, drugs and alcohol?

Risk management
Is our practice familiar with this process and are the related procedures clear and accessible to those responsible?

Consultation
How do we achieve effective consultation and how do we use the results?

Training
Do we need any specific training?

Hazard identification
How and in what circumstances do we do this?

First Aid
What equipment, personnel and procedures do we have available? Are they clearly described, available to all and reviewed from time to time?

Emergency response
What procedures are in place? Are they clearly described, available to all, and practised from time to time?

Reportable incidents
How will we recognise, manage and report them?

Injury management and return to work
Do we know where to find guidance?

Records
What records do we need to keep?

Forms
What proforma can help keep clear, accurate, consistent and correctly targeted records?

Monitoring, reviewing and continuous improvement
How do we apply lessons learned to improve our system?

Communication
How do we communicate all of the above internally and externally?

Some useful definitions from the Model Act:  

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)

For the purposes of the Act, a person conducts a business or undertaking:

(a) whether the person conducts the business or undertaking alone or with others; and

(b) whether or not the business or undertaking is conducted for profit or gain. [Section 5(1)]

A business or undertaking conducted by a person includes a business or undertaking conducted by a partnership or an incorporated association. [Section 5(2)]

If a business or undertaking is conducted by a partnership (other than an incorporated partnership), a reference in this Act to a person conducting the business or undertaking is to be read as a reference to each partner in the partnership. [Section 5(3)]

Workplace

A workplace is a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.  

Place includes:

(a) a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other mobile structure; and

(b) any waters and any installation on land, on the bed of any waters or floating on any waters. [Section 8(2)]

Worker

A person is a worker if the person carries out work in any capacity for a person conducting a business or undertaking, including work as:

(a) an employee; or

(b) a contractor or subcontractor; or

(c) an employee of a contractor or subcontractor; or

(d) an employee of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work in the person’s business or undertaking; or

(e) an outworker; or

(f) an apprentice or trainee; or

(g) a student gaining work experience; or

(h) a volunteer; or

(i) a person of a prescribed class. [Section 7]

Officer

The same meaning as section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001, but does not include a partner in a partnership. Note that the definition of a PCBU includes a partner in a partnership.

Officer of a corporation means:

(a) a director or secretary of the corporation; or

(b) a person:

(i) who makes, or participates in making, decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business of the corporation; or

(ii) who has the capacity to affect significantly the corporation’s financial standing; or

(iii) in accordance with whose instructions or wishes the directors of the corporation are accustomed to act (excluding advice given by the person in the proper performance of functions attaching to the person’s professional capacity or their business relationship with the directors or the corporation).

[Corporations Act 2001 section 9]

Some useful definitions from the Victorian Act:

Employer

A person who employs one or more other persons under contracts of employment of contracts of training. [Section 5]

Workplace

A place, whether or not in a building of structure, where employees or self-employed persons work. [Section 5]

Employee

A person employed under a contract of employment or contract of training. [Section 5]

Officer

Officer of a body corporate, unincorporated body or association or partnership has the meaning (other than in Part 8) given by section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001. [Section 5]  

Officer of a corporation means:

See above. [Section 9 Corporations Act 2001]

Officer of an entity that is neither an individual nor a corporation means:

(a) partner in the partnership if the entity is a partnership; or

(b) an office holder of the unincorporated association if the entity is an unincorporated association; or

(c) a person:

(i) who makes, or participates in making, decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part, of the business of the entity; or

(ii) who has the capacity to affect significantly the entity’s financial standing.

 

If you would like to participate in developing the ACA guidelines to assist practices to meet workplace health and safety obligations, please contact Michelle Eades (nat@aca.org.au).

 

This article was first published in the ACA Communique, November 2013.
Image: Russell & Yelland's offices, courtesy of Russell & Yelland.