Inspection program reveals low awareness of OSH responsibilities

A WorkSafe proactive inspection program looking at commercial property owners and property managers has revealed a generally low level of knowledge about workplace safety responsibilities.

The program was conducted throughout most of the 2015/16 financial year, and focused on the owners and property managers of small to medium sized shopping centres.

WorkSafe Director Joe Attard said today the program had been prompted by a growing awareness by inspectors that commercial owners and property managers may not understand all their obligations.

“Inspectors in the Services Industries area had noticed that commercial property owners and property managers were not always aware of their duties under the occupational safety and health legislation as persons in control of workplaces,” Mr Attard said.

“When a proactive inspection program was focused on the area, the results showed that there were knowledge gaps in relation to workplace safety and health obligations.  Concerns emerged in a couple of areas where hazards may lead to people being seriously injured or killed.

“The legislation applies to owners and managers who have any control over access and egress to a workplace, or who have control over a workplace where persons who are not their employees are likely to be in the course of their work.

“During this inspection program, inspectors found that commercial property owners and property managers were generally not aware that they had a responsibility to ensure safe movement of vehicles and mobile plant, particularly in common delivery areas and loading docks, and there were limited controls in place at many premises.

“Property owners and property managers may have no involvement in work activity being done at their premises, but if some control is retained, then a duty applies to minimise risks to workers.

“Inspectors found that many owners and managers were not aware that they needed to ensure safe access to the roof and also to ensure that safe systems of work were in place for contractors accessing the roof.”

There are many other areas where control – and hence a duty – may exist, including lighting, entrances and exits, emergency planning, footpaths, stairways, shared delivery areas, common foyers and gardens and elevators and escalators.

The project concentrated on small to medium sized shopping centres because they have a number of workplaces located onsite, contractors are used on a regular basis and members of the public use the centres every day.

Hence, a number of people may be owed a duty of care by the commercial property owner or property manager under workplace safety and health laws.

If this area is of concern in your industry, and for more information – visit the WorkSafe WA website www.commerce.wa.gov.au