As of 1 January 2012, Commonwealth, States and Territories have agreed to implement nationally harmonised WH&S (work health & safety) Legislation.
This means that from next year, a person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure work health and safety, and will have a duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.
These duties include requiring, so far as is reasonably practicable:
• the provision and maintenance of a work environment that is without risks to health or safety
• the provision and maintenance of safe plant, structures and safe systems of work
• the safe use, handling-including transport-and storage of plant, structures and substances
• the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking
• the provision of, and access to, adequate facilities for the welfare of workers at the workplace, and
• the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored for the purpose of preventing work-related illness or injury
The duties to ensure health and safety require persons conducting business or undertakings to eliminate the risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. If this is not possible, they must minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
What does ‘reasonably practicable’ mean?
Work health and safety duties, other than duties of officers, workers and other persons at the workplace, apply so far as is ‘reasonably practicable’. ‘Reasonably practicable’ represents what can reasonably be done in the circumstances. This means that the duty holders must satisfy the duties as far as they are reasonably able to, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters, including:
• the likelihood of the relevant hazard or risk occurring
• the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk
• what the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk and the ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, and
• the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk.
Only after assessing these matters can the cost of eliminating or minimising the risk be taken into account, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to (significantly outweighs) the risk.
*source: Safe Work Australia
For office based workers, the use of preventative ergonomic assessments will be a valuable and reasonably practicable tool in monitoring the health health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored for the purpose of preventing work-related illness or injury, and to help in creating a safe work environment