Workplace Health and Safety

Every 2-3 minutes someone in Australia is injured seriously enough to lodge a workers compensation claim. In fact, there are more people killed each year at work in industrial accidents, than are killed on our roads.

Health and safety at work is a serious issue. You have a right to a safe workplace. Your employer has a legal and moral responsibility to make sure your workplace is safe.

If you have any concerns about workplace health and safety, talk to your union. Skilled and well-informed union representatives can give you specialist advice and help on dealing with any health and safety issue at work.

Employer's responsibilityWhat you can do for workplace health and safetyRest breaks


Employer's responsibility

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure the safety of your worksites and employees. Employers can be investigated and fined for providing unsafe work.

The most important thing is to focus on avoiding injury at work by having in place proper health and safety practices, and through open and responsive communication about workplace safety.

Every workplace should have clear avenues available for employees to express concerns about potential health risks, including employees being encouraged to make any safety concerns known as they occur.

If your workplace doesn't have clear ways to identify possible health risks, don't hesitate to contact the CWU and get advice. You have a right to be safe!

Workplaces with active health and safety committees and union involvement in these committees have been found to have a much lower level of workplace injury.

What you can do for workplace health and safety

As an employee, you have an important role to play in ensuring your own safety.

Elect a Health and Safety Representatives

One of the things that you can do to improve safety at work is to elect a Health and Safety Representative (HSR).

Employers are legally required to consult with HSRs about health and safety issues.

  • to identify and assess hazards or risks to health and safety in the workplace
  • before making decisions to control risks to health and safety in the workplace.
  • before changes are implemented that may affect the health and safety of employees
  • before policies and procedures are introduced.
  • before making decisions about facilities for the welfare of employees.

For more information about HSRs, their roles and employer's responsibilities, go to Comcare Australia.


Work Health & Safety Act No. 137 of 2011


Report incidents

It is really important to report all health and safety incidents to your employer.

Your employer is legally required to keep a Register of Injuries at your workplace. If you do incur an injury, record it in this Registry, or get someone to do it on your behalf, and make sure it is done within 30 days of the injury.

The register of injuries can be a diary, exercise book or electronic file where all the injury information is recorded.

If you don’t notify your employer of your injury you may not be entitled to compensation.

Ask your union to represent you

Unions support workers’ safety by providing safety advice for workers, convening workplace meetings to discuss concerns, and if required, by representing workers’ concerns to management through meetings or letters.

A big advantage of having the union represent workers’ concerns is that workers are protected from the threat of being singled out for approaching the boss individually.

Evidence shows that having union members in the workplace increases health and safety awareness by up to 70%. So if you or others in your workplace feel too intimidated to speak up about workplace safety, ask the CWU to help.

Rest breaks

Rest breaks are important to maintaining a safe workplace.

As a minimum standard you should receive at least one half-hour unpaid break for every 5 hours of work.

Most awards and agreements will also provide for 10 minute paid breaks during shifts of 3 or more hours in length on top of this.

Your boss should offer you your break. If they don’t you should feel entitled to request it.

  • Working without breaks can lead to a loss in concentration and fatigue, and if breaks are denied consistently, this can lead to illness and an increased incidence of workplace accidents.

When taking breaks they should be genuine. You should not do any work during your breaks.