Health and safety inspectors – 9 key powers
By Joanna Weekes
As you are no doubt aware, health and safety legislation applies to all businesses that operate across Australia, but what you may not know is how exactly the laws are enforced.
In today’s Health & Safety Bulletin, I’d like to outline the powers of inspectors and how they monitor and enforce compliance with health and safety laws.
How is health and safety legislation enforced?
Health and safety legislation is enforced by regulators in each jurisdiction, listed below:
Commonwealth – Comcare
ACT – Workcover ACT
NSW – WorkCover NSW
NT – NT WorkSafe
Queensland – Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
SA – SafeWork SA
Tasmania – Workplace Standards Tasmania
Victoria – WorkSafe Victoria
WA – WorkSafe WA
Regulators appoint health and safety inspectors to investigate any suspected breaches of health and safety legislation, and prosecute if necessary.
Powers of inspectors
Inspectors have extensive powers to ensure you comply with your duties under health and safety legislation, including the power to:
- investigate worker complaints and undertake investigations;
- inspect workplaces to detect hazards and risks to health and safety;
- advise duty holders on how to improve workplace health and safety;
- seize defective or hazardous plant, equipment or substances;
- enter, inspect and examine a workplace during working hours to investigate an incident or when there is an immediate risk to health and safety;
- inspect and copy any relevant documents from your workplace;
- take photographs and video recordings, and collect documents, samples and other relevant evidence from your workplace;
- conduct interviews with management and workers; and
- non-disturbance notices, which prevent you from using a piece of plant or equipment for a specified period;
- improvement notices, requiring you to fix a hazard or risk; and
- prohibition notices, which require you to stop performing an activity until the hazard or risk has been eliminated or controlled.
What penalties could you face?
Depending on your jurisdiction and the type of health and safety offence you commit, your business could be liable for penalties ranging from $400,000 to $3 million, so ensure you follow all health and safety laws to avoid prosecution by the health and safety inspector.
If you’d like to know more about health and safety inspectors, and how to avoid prosecution, you can refer to chapter Enforcement in the Health & Safety Handbook.
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