This is one of our most asked questions. We know what business owners are looking for us to tell them, but unfortunately we can’t. You can be doing all the right things as far as reasonably practicable and have all your documents and licences etc in-place, but if something goes wrong you could still be questioned, sued or have your site shut down during an investigation.
Do not let any company or person try and tell that you are covered, as this would not only be incorrect advice, but would also put you and your business at risk!
What safety documents do is help ensure you are meeting your legal obligations and provide evidence you are managing safety as long as the work is being completed as per the law and what is in your safety documents.
Here are some examples…
If in your SWMS it says you are going to use particular controls for working at heights and you don’t, and if something happens or an inspector visits your site and sees you are not completing the work as stated then you are not actually being compliant. So you are not ‘covered’ even though you have the right documents.
If in your WHS management plan you have all the legal requirements and what is expected by employees, contractors and other workers but there is a culture of letting things slide or short cuts to be taken, your plan won’t save you if things go wrong.
You have everything in place as per legislation, plus do extra things like weekly checks of your site, conduct toolbox talks and regularly communicate WHS matters to workers and contractors. You ensure everyone completes their work as safely as is reasonably practicable and know what is expected of them. Despite all of this someone is injured. You are still not ‘covered’. There may still be an investigation, but you will be able to show evidence of doing all the right things, so less likely to be found negligent, charge and/or fined. And the worker may still be able to sue you, but again you’ll be able to show you did everything within the legal framework to ensure that workers safety, which may change the outcome of a common law claim against you or your business.
Fortunately, by having everything required in place you can reduce your exposure to being fined, site shut down and being sued.
Or if you are fined then your fine may be reduced because you were able to show what you were doing was reasonably practicable according to legislation.