Workplace safety spotlight

QUEENSLAND workplaces are putting their staff at risk with ABS figures showing nearly 150,000 workers injuring themselves in the state's workplaces each year, yet only 0.02% of Queenslanders are first aid qualified.

Safe Work Week, happening this week, is a time to encourage all working Australians to get involved in and concentrate on safety in their workplace to reduce death, injury and disease.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland has used the annual event to remind business owners and managers that they will be personally liable for the health and safety of their workers at the beginning of next year under the most significant shake-up to workplace health and safety laws in decades.

They now have two months to prepare their workplaces and ensure they are compliant with new safety laws, which come into effect on January 1.

Significantly higher penalties will also apply not only after a workplace incident but if a random audit by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) finds a business has failed to put in place adequate safety plans. 

Companies can be fined up to $3 million, while officers can be fined up to $600,000 and five-year jail term

CCIQ has been prompted by the impending new laws to stage training courses specifically for directors, CEOs and managers. (More information at

CCIQSafety senior workplace health and safety consultant Jamen Wilcox said the legislation removed the role of the Workplace Health and Safety Officer and instead placed full active responsibility in managers' hands.

"Just as managers and owners manage the finances or operations, they'll now be obliged to actively manage the health and safety risks of their business, too," he said.

"The key to surviving the new legislation is to start now with a workplace audit and action plan, supported by training to ensure your managers understand what safety standards they are obliged to uphold."

Businesses will also hold greater responsibility for monitoring workplace conditions and worker health, and discriminatory, coercive or misleading conduct in relation to safety matters will attract civil and criminal penalties.

Mr Wilcox said even small business owners needed to take notice, with bullying, harassment and manual handling injuries regarded as serious safety breaches.

"While the new laws focused on giving greater certainty and uniformity across Australia, they also bring with it the cost and time needed to implement procedures, policies and plans.   By starting now, two months before the laws come into effect, business owners can be better prepared."

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