Mind your manners!

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One of the major legislative changes that are set to commence in the New Year is the national reform of Australia’s Occupational Health and Safety (“OHS”) regime.

A notable change under the new legislation is the authorisation of unannounced inspections of workplaces where there are suspected breaches of OHS legislation. Incidental to this grant of power, employers are expected to mind their manners while inspector type guests are about. For example, employers must provide all relevant information requested, allow access to areas of work relevant to the suspected breach, not engage in conduct that will hinder the inspection such as attempting to prevent the inspector from entering the premise or talking to employees etc.

While it may seem that OHS inspectors will attain an almighty power over employers under the new legislation, a recent decision in Federal Court of Australia has provided a precedent which will hopefully ensure that OHS inspectors are on their best behaviour.

In Setka v Gregor (No 2) Mr Setka, as an authorised inspector, attended a building site for the purposes of undertaking an OHS inspection. Proceedings were subsequently brought against Mr Setka for suspected breaches of s 767 Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth). It was alleged that Mr Setka had acted improperly during the aforementioned inspection by using profanities and threatening managers due to his disgust at the poor state of the workplace. Mr Sekta was subsequently convicted and fined.

This case demonstrates the level of civility that is required by OHS inspectors and possibly employers in the course of OHS inspections.

If you wish to obtain advice regarding your rights and obligations in the event of an OHS inspection please contact:

Matthew Bridger | e: mbridger@elringtons.com.au | p: 02 6206 1300 http://elringtons.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Specialist-accreditaion.jpg