Personal safety in the workplace

As a business owner, you are legally responsible to make sure your workplace is safe for your employees. This page highlights some of ways to meet this requirement.

Develop and implement safe systems of work

As an employer, you should:

  • have safe work systems in your workplace (e.g. procedures for reporting workplace incidents)
  • ensure your employees understand these procedures and know what to do when a workplace incident happens.

The safety fundamentals toolkit can help you develop a system to ensure the safety of your employees. It includes advice on:

  • getting commitment from managers
  • consulting with staff
  • safe work procedures
  • training and supervision
  • managing risks
  • reporting incidents
  • workers' compensation and return-to-work programs.

Safe work systems are especially important to ensure the safety of employees who are exposed to a higher level of risk, for example, employees who:

  • work early and leave late
  • work at night, alone or in isolation.

You also need to implement safe practices for employees who travel for work or work away from the office.

If you or your employees start work early or leave late, consider the following tips to lower the risk.

Before entering the workplace:

  • park in a populated, well-lit area as close as possible to the workplace
  • look for anyone loitering nearby
  • check for any signs of attempts at forced entry.

If you're not sure the workplace is safe, contact the police and don't enter the premises.

Before leaving the workplace:

  • tell someone if you're working late, what time you're leaving, and when you can be expected home
  • look for anyone loitering nearby.

If you notice anything suspicious, use an alarm system (if available) or contact police.

Read more about business security and crime prevention.

Consider the following ways to lower the risks of working alone, at night, or in isolation:

  • Develop procedures for staff working alone—include guidelines for appropriate behaviour when working alone in your HR policies and procedures (e.g. the employee should make regular contact with a supervisor).
  • Make sure your employees know and understand the procedures.
  • Arrange a safe place or secure location on the premises for the employee to retreat to if threatened.
  • Arrange security services if appropriate (e.g. security patrols or a security officer at the end of a shift).

Read more about managing the risks of remote and isolated work.

Develop a business travel plan that lowers the risks of regularly travelling for work. Consider setting up guidelines for:

  • adequate and regular communication (e.g. through mobile phones and email)
  • itineraries/travel plans that other employees can see
  • travel during the safest times
  • looking after your health while travelling (e.g. during air travel).

Find out about employer responsibilities when using vehicles as a workplace (PDF, 1.1MB).

Telecommuting workers:

  • should work in a safe way (e.g. take regular breaks)
  • in a safe environment (e.g. lighting, ventilation, wiring and seating must meet safe work requirements).

To ensure the safety of telecommuting workers, you can:

Learn more about health and safety when working from home.

Harassment can involve physical contact, comments and non-verbal actions such as offensive gestures and inappropriate emailing. It can affect employees psychologically and physically.

To ensure employees are aware of appropriate behaviour in the workplace:

  • include information in your workplace inductions for new or returning staff
  • provide workplace behaviour training for all employees
  • include business conduct and behaviour standards in your HR policies and procedures.

Learn more about dealing with workplace bullying.

Find resources and good practice guides relating to workplace sexual harassment.

Support procedures

When developing your safe systems of work and employee training, remember to outline the support procedures that must be followed when an incident happens.

Meet your work health and safety training obligations

As an employer, you:

  • are legally obliged to provide work health and safety (WHS) training to your employees
  • must provide this training when a new employee starts and provide regular refresher training
  • may also be required to provide industry-specific training related to your business.

Be aware of any personal safety risks for your employees—these should form part of your risk management plan—and ensure you offer training to help them understand and mitigate these risks.

Find out more about WHS training obligations.

Provide adequate supervision

You are legally required to provide your employees with adequate supervision to ensure their personal safety. Include procedures for worker supervision in your WHS training.

Employees may need to be supervised while, for example:

Manage workplace incidents

You must investigate workplace incidents even if they don't result in serious injury. To investigate the incident, you need to know:

  • who was involved
  • when it happened
  • where it happened
  • why it happened.

Use this information to prevent further incidents.

You can appoint a safety adviser or a WHS representative to do the investigation and make recommendations.

In the event of a serious personal safety incident or accident:

  • follow the support procedures you have developed as part of your safe work systems
  • consider trauma counselling for your employees
  • notify employees of their right to workers' compensation insurance.

As an employer you must have workers' compensation insurance. If one of your employees experiences a work-related injury, workers' compensation insurance will cover their medical costs and lost wages.

Read more about workers' compensation claims and insurance.

Develop a risk management plan

A risk management plan is about minimising all risks to a business—not just risks to personal safety—but it can also help you provide a safe workplace and prevent safety incidents. It includes:

  • an assessment of safety risks
  • a business security plan
  • measures to control risks
  • employee training in risk identification and management.

Identify safety risks in your business

To prepare for the possibility of a safety breach, you should identify internal and external risks to your employees. All businesses are different and there are many factors that can create personal safety risks, for example:

  • building design and layout
  • employee working patterns
  • crime and civil unrest
  • money security and handling.

For example, if your business operates late at night and has a lot of cash on site you may be at high risk from an armed hold-up.

Make it a priority to train employees to identify and report personal safety and security risks.

Read more about business security.

Action item: Write your risk management plan

If you don't have a risk management plan, find out how to prepare a risk management plan and business impact analysis.

Develop a response plan

Safety threats can impact negatively on your employees and your business, especially if they are not effectively dealt with. Some of the threats you may need to respond to include:

  • bullying and harassment
  • burglary
  • armed robbery
  • theft of assets
  • internal security issues
  • suspicious mail packages
  • bomb threats.

Develop a response plan to address each threat employees in your business may face.

Develop a business continuity plan

While a risk management plan focuses on identifying and minimising possible risks, a business continuity plan outlines how your business can continue to operate if an incident does happen.

Action item: Write your business continuity plan

If you don't have a business continuity plan, you can download and complete our business continuity planning template. To address workplace personal risk management in your continuity plan, you can cover:

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