Article by Jane Tweedy, Business Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre
Workplace Health and Safety Applies to Small Business Too!
After reading a disturbing post in an online group, it was quite apparent there is a lot of ignorance when it comes to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) for small businesses.
I have insurance won’t that cover me?
Absolutely not. Insurance whether public liability, business interruption, workers compensation or even contents or car insurance, is no excuse for not upholding WHS obligations. In fact your insurance could be voided based on activities or omissions on your part as a business owner. Insurance is usually a fall back for when you do the right things, but an accident occurs, often outside your control.
WHS is only for big business isn’t it?
No, Paul Grant of Spectral Management Systems advises even for sole owner businesses “it must be remembered that ignorance of the work health and safety legislation is no defence, and the need for complying with it is equally as important as a large multinational.” This can surprise many small business owners but the act specifically states their responsibility as a PCBU ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. The PCBU must ensure the WHS of employees and visitors to their premises (even if working from home).
Sole traders may not pay Workers Compensation for themselves but do pay for workers. This covers employees and sometimes contractors too (particularly where they are deemed to be an employee). Calculation is formula driven based on your industry, business size and sometimes past claims.
The benefits of WHS to the workplace culture
Engaging in and leading by example is the best way to maintain a safe work environment. Safe Work Australia notes “A positive culture can help small business owners improve WHS and avoid costly incidents and injuries, minimise productivity disruptions and reduce overheads.” It can make you a more desirable place to work, and business to transact with if people feel safe in their dealings with your business. There are some rebates available for implementing certain WHS changes.
Penalties for non-compliance
Shona Guthrie of Capstone Safety points out the penalties for non-compliance are high. Even for an individual the fines can range from $50,000 to $600,000, or even 5 years imprisonment. Further Shona advises “Remember, safety is not just about paying your insurance premium (which will increase if you have a claim), it is about making sure you, your workers, and everyone that could be affected by your work goes home at the end of the day without any injuries.”
To find out more about taking reasonable steps towards WHS compliance, you can check out https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/small-business and also Safe Work NSW, or contact WHS providers such as Paul or Shona.
Business Connect can assist you in finding out what you didn’t know you didn’t know, including the legal obligations you may not be aware of in running a small business. We can also connect you with tools, Government Departments and private providers to assist with implementation. Arrange to see your local Business Connect Advisors by contacting Western Sydney Business Centre.
Western Sydney Business Centre, offers 4 hours business advice at NO COST with a NSW Government funded Business Connect Advisor. We can talk about any concerns with your business, and help you connect with others. Please book here now!