A Laymen’s guide to H&S Legislation

Many of us will be aware of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which represent workplace health and safety laws in Australia and New Zealand. These laws aim to reduce the number of serious, work-related injuries and deaths.

As a manager, business owner or H&S officer, one of the challenges you may face is where to start. Everyone has a responsibility for safety. Responsibilities spread across businesses, their officers, their workers, and even through to the people entering the workplace, such as visitors.

The emphasis is on being proactive, which means taking steps in advance to identify and manage those risks. This includes assessing the potential for work-related health conditions, as well as the injuries that could occur.

Potential risks and situations with risk

From the moment a staff member arrives at their place of work, their safety needs to be managed and any risks mitigated. No matter where they are working, inside a central workplace or offsite, their safety is the organisation’s responsibility. This includes travelling in a company-provided vehicle, a privately-owned vehicle that is used for company business or any other form of transportation.

In terms of risk assessment, review which workplace risks should be dealt with first. Risks with potentially significant consequences, such as chronic ill-health, serious injury or death, should be at the top of the priority list, as should those that are more likely to occur

Keep in mind that once risks have been identified and eliminated or minimised, some element of risk may remain.

Some examples of risks that need to be addressed include:

  • Remote workers face a heightened risk of falls, health issues, vehicle accident, or simply a sudden change in environmental conditions such as bad weather, which could leave them stranded, isolated, and/or unable to call for help using traditional methods.
  • Lone workers sit in a higher risk category as they have no-one there to raise an alarm if something happens. Losing consciousness is a risk that is difficult to manage for these workers.
  • Staff dealing with hazardous substances or environments that have the potential for fire and or incendiary incidents may not be able to use standard devices, such as mobile phones or radios, requiring specialist solutions to help manage and communicate with them.

Roles facing risk

Does your company have people undertaking compliance or enforcement roles, such as Fisheries Officers, Parking Compliance Officers, Environmental Health Officers, Investigators, Security personnel, Building Inspectors, or even Health and Safety Inspectors?
All of these ‘front line’ roles face persistent and similar risks to their personal safety. In most cases, these risks revolve around their interaction with the public and the environment.

Exploring solutions

There are some simple ways to identify areas of risk and generate ideas on how to manage this risk.

  • Engage with your workers on health and safety matters that may directly affect them. Ask them what their health and safety concerns are and what would assist them eliminate or minimise these to make them feel safer.
  • Look at similar businesses in your sector and observe what solutions they have put in place, that you could replicate.

One typical challenge a company may have is that no single supplier will be able to address every aspect of a company’s H&S risk.

There may be value in grouping staff roles and examples of risks faced and then prioritising those risks that require immediate addressing. This may assist with building a ‘Requirements document’ that can be used to approach potential suppliers with some clarity of your specific needs. Some of the questions within this might include:

  • Are the roles mainly lone worker or at-risk worker, based? Would solutions that include ‘man down’, duress, condition check and messaging features, be of value?
  • Are those people in their vehicle in these situations or do they move a considerable distance from the vehicle into areas without cellular coverage? Is that a risk in itself?
  • When staff are driving, are the concerns around driver behaviour, speeding or not knowing if a high impact or rollover event has occurred?
    Selecting a supplier

Within Australia and New Zealand, there are suppliers that provide some or most of the solutions an organisation may require.
Look for suppliers with proven track records delivering these services to organisations in industries such as yours. Some suppliers have more success in particular sectors such as government, utilities, not for profits, etc. Ask around the sector you operate in to identify the top suppliers.


In Australia, WorkSafe has several resources that are accessible from its website. These include Quick Guides, Fact Sheets, Tool Kits and Case Studies.
There are also companies within New Zealand that specialise in tailored health and safety audits, reviews and advice.

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