A workers rights: What to do if your workplace isn’t safe

Providing and maintaining a safe working environment is the responsibility of all involved. From the common labourer to the corporate staff, it takes everyone to ensure that a workplace is safe and that employees are happy. Government regulations and strict OH&S policies have drastically reduced the amount of workplace accidents. Every business operating in a potentially hazardous environment must legally comply with set standards of worker protection. Unfortunately there are numerous incidents every year were safety is ignored, with financial or time constraints taking priority. Ignoring hazards is incredibly dangerous, it is essential to provide a safe working environment. In theory employees have the right to refuse to work in dangerous environments absent of safety systems. In reality many employees, concerned about job security will not exercise their right of refusal for fear of repercussions. Being expected to work in an unsafe environment without instituted safety policy is unacceptable and there is a process employees can follow if they feel that safety standards are inadequate.

The first step in the complaints process should be to consult with the onsite OH&S representative. OH&S representatives are specially trained to identify hazards and implement safety policies accordingly. As your first line of complaint OH&S are the go to guys if the problem persists then you may need to go higher. The next step on the ladder is to speak to a union representative or relevant government body and request immediate action. Some employers in the past have discriminated against whistleblowing, in this case you can contact safe work Australia and they will intervene on your behalf. When it comes to safety workers should never be in a position where they are scare of complaining or notifying authorities about workplace issues. From an employer’s perspective the best way to ensure safe practice is to encourage transparency and a prioritise safety.

With the Australian economy loosing roughly $20 billion as a result of workplace related injury the time to act is now. Ultimately it is the choice of the individual to carry out work in unsafe conditions, it’s important to remember that if things go wrong, your life or the lives of co-workers could be on the line. Reporting unsafe working conditions to the relevant authorities should be considered the responsibility of workers. The government has made a pledge to drastically reduce the number of workplace related fatalities. In order to achieve reduced fatalities it is important that everyone takes a stand against unsafe working conditions.