Safety is an important part of working in Australia.
In Australia, the law says that your employer (your boss) must do all they can to make sure your job does not hurt you or make you sick. This law is called work health and safety (WHS) or occupational health and safety (OHS).
The law also says your boss must have insurance for you in case you are hurt at work. This is called workers’ compensation. If you are hurt or get sick at work, the insurance may pay for your medical treatment and for your wages until you can work again. This is called workers’ compensation (WC).
- Workers' compensation covers all workers in Australia, even if you are on a temporary visa.
SWA only provides very basic information about WHS and WC in Australia. It is for those who are new to working in Australia and who don’t have much experience with Australian workplaces, and may not be native English speakers. It is not a definitive guide to all WHS and WC issues in Australia.
What your boss must do
Your boss must look after your health and safety at work. Your boss must:
- Show you how to do your job safely or make sure someone shows you how to do your job safely.
- Make sure there is someone to watch out for you.
- Not ask you to do anything that needs a special licence, like drive a car, a crane or a forklift if you don’t have the right licence.
- Have the right tools and equipment for you to do your job safely.
- Give you safety equipment if you need it to do your job.
Work safety equipment is usually called personal protective equipment.
There are special types of equipment for each job. This could be a hard hat, goggles or safety eye glasses, gloves, boots, aprons or ear muffs.
It needs to be in good condition and it should fit you comfortably. You need to know how to use it and you need to wear it properly.
If you think you need something extra, talk to your boss, a more experienced worker or the health and safety representative if there is one at your workplace.
What you must do to keep yourself safe at work
In Australia, the law also says there are things you must do to look after your own health and safety at work.
- Be fit enough to do your job.
- Be well enough to do your job.
- Do what your boss tells you as long as it is reasonable. If you think it’s not safe or it could hurt you, you have the right to refuse to do it.
- Not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs or use alcohol or illegal drugs while at work.
- Not do anything that would hurt yourself or anyone else at work.
If you don’t understand how to do something you are asked to do at work, you should ask your boss or a more experienced worker for help.
These are some of the things that could hurt you at work:
- using equipment when you haven’t been taught how to use it properly
- not wearing the right safety equipment or not wearing it properly
- hurrying and taking short cuts
- doing things that take your mind off the job while you are working, like using your own mobile phone.
If you’re not sure, ask someone
In Australia, the law says you have the right to ask questions about the work you have been asked to do. You are also allowed to say no if you are asked to do work that could hurt you.
- If you are asked to do something that you think may be unsafe, stop and talk to the boss or your supervisor.
Sometimes the boss at work is not the person who pays you. For example if you work through a labour hire agency they will pay you but someone else is in charge at work. If you don’t want to talk to the boss at work, you can talk to the labour hire agency about your WHS.
There should be a person at work who can help you with any questions about WHS. Find out who this is and how to contact them.
If you are not sure about something, ask someone for help.
Your right to fair pay and conditions
In Australia, there are minimum wages and working conditions.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is a government office that helps employers and workers understand their rights and responsibilities at work. They can also help you find out what you should be paid.
The Fair Work Ombudsman can also investigate a case if they think someone has broken workplace laws.
- To contact the Fair Work Ombudsman or to learn more about your rights at work go to www.fairwork.gov.au or call 13 13 94.
Bullying is when someone says or does something to you again, and again and again that frightens or humiliates you. Examples include:
- laughing at you
- calling you unkind names
- pushing into you
- breaking your things.
Nobody should be bullied at work. If you are bullied talk to your boss or to another worker and tell them you want it to stop.
If it doesn’t stop you can talk to someone at the regulator in the state or territory where you are working. You can also talk to the Fair Work Commission by calling 1300 799 675 or go to www.fwc.gov.au
What to do if you get hurt or injured at work
Get first aid or see a doctor or nurse straight away. You have the right to choose the doctor you see. This can be your own doctor, a local doctor or a doctor or nurse at work. You can ask the doctor for a medical certificate and you can show this certificate to your boss.
Tell your boss that you have been hurt. You will probably need to fill in a form called an incident report. If you can, try and do this before you go home. If you need help filling in the form, ask someone to help you.
The form will ask you to explain what happened and how you got hurt. It helps stop other people getting hurt or injured like you did.
- It is very important to fill in the incident report form—it may affect your workers’ compensation.
If you have medical bills or can’t work because of your injury, you may get workers’ compensation to pay for medical treatment and support until you get back to work. Remember to ask your boss about this as soon as possible and fill in any forms you need to apply for workers’ compensation.
If you are hurt don’t be afraid that you will get into trouble. Even if you have made a mistake you should report the injury and ask for help.
SWA is not a regulator and cannot give you detailed WHS advice. If you need help, please contact the safe work regulator in your state or territory.