There is a legal obligation on a Brisbane employer to reasonably protect their workers from any risks associated with their work duties and the workplace conditions. This includes making sure that adequate safety measures and processes are implemented, proper safety equipment and personal protection equipment (PPE) is provided, and that relevant training is given to employees to prevent injury during the course of their employment.
An employer who fails in this standard and cases a workplace accident may be liable for negligence in workers compensation law. The responsibility for workplace health and safety in Queensland, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast is a role that should be taken seriously by EVERYONE, including employers.
However, regardless of what occupation a person chooses to undertake, there may always be some degree and exposure to risk from work hazards. Even common and simple tasks can result in injury should the circumstances allow for it. For example, sitting on a chair and typing for prolonged periods of time can result in a repetitive strain injury (RSI) if they are not advised to take occasional breaks and maintain proper ergonomic standards.
What general hazards can happen in the workplace?
Employees must adhere to any safety precautions and measures imposed by their workplace and superiors, as well as take reasonable care of their own safety, such as abstaining from alcohol while on the job and being alert in the course of employment.
Some of the most common work hazards include:
Everyone gets fatigued at some point or another. However, it becomes a serious issue when physical or mental exhaustion on the job leads to an increased risk of accident and injury. This is especially true for heavy labor occupations such as fly in fly out workers, construction workers, mining workers, general factory workers and truck drivers.
Fatigue has been compared to being drunk in terms of alertness and reaction time. It can cause workers to become more exposed to potential workplace hazards by contributing to accidents through human error.
Exposure to Hazardous Substances
Hazardous exposures most commonly arise in industrial and agricultural sectors, such as abrasive blasting and biological hazards due to livestock. A worker can become victim to respiratory illnesses and injury when they are exposed to spray painting, fumes and other harmful airborne particles that can affect breathing, vision, or cause internal damage.
The most common reason for exposure to these kinds of substances is because of inadequate ventilation or lack of PPE.
Some examples of excessive noise that can cause injury include:
- Explosions during mining operations
- Constant noise from drilling in construction
- Loud music blaring in a nightclub
- The noise emanating from high powered motor vehicles and equipment
The human body may react to excessive noise by triggering its autonomic nervous system. This results in increased heart rate, blood pressure and the release of adrenalin and cortisol hormones. If this effect occurs over a prolonged period of time, it can contribute to more severe conditions such as hypertension, gastric ulcers, stress and reduced immune responses from white blood cell depletion.
Slip, Trips & Falls
Workplace injuries such as broken bones, sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal injuries commonly happen from slip, trip and fall injuries. They can happen anywhere in a workplace due to a number of different conditions such as a lack of proper warning signs over wet surfaces or lack of proper visibility and lighting.
Some other workplace risks that can lead to a slip, trip and fall accident include:
- Lack of communication
- Inadequate safety precautions taken such as tying down loose objects
- Not using adequate signage for wet surfaces
- Loose cords, carpets or flooring
- Surfaces with poor structural integrity
- Lack of handrails at risky locations such as stairs
- Weather conditions
Many workers are exposed to extreme weather conditions due to the nature of their jobs. Being outdoors for prolonged periods of time can lead to heat stress, which could be minor (heat rash) or progressively worse (leading to heat stroke or even death.)
The warning signs of heat stress include:
- Heavy sweating
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
A work plan should be implemented to protect workers from being affected by heat stress. Employers should make sure that their workers have access to water in order to stay hydrated and provide regular cooling off or rest periods. Adequate protection from the sun can also be provided through PPE or shade shelters.
Low lighting almost certainly increases the risk of an accident. Poor visibility requires workers to use items such as torches to illuminate their path, which also keeps their hands busy and restricts their range of vision. Provision of adequate visibility and lighting could prevent many accidents yet there are circumstances where employers fail to provide even this simple standard. This failure can be a serious issue, especially since it also impedes a worker’s ability to evacuate safely in an emergency.
The risk of slipping, falling off platforms, colliding with solid objects or unintentionally injuring others is significantly increased when workers are subjected to working in environments with poor lighting.
A psychological toll is often put on workers due to the demands of the workplace, the fears of the changing economy and juggling an occupation with a personal life and family. Stress that occurs over a prolonged period of time can lead to a long list of health conditions. This is especially true if the employer is directly responsible for this stress in a negligent way. Workplace bullying and harassment is sadly an issue that affects many workers, including women.
Many workers feel they need to “keep low and silent” because they are scared of losing their job. This fear often results in workers failing to report their concerns, which may also affect their legal rights in a negative way.
Are you protected from these hazards?
Communication is the first line of defense to prevent hazards and it is important that workers inform their supervisors and management team of any concerns about workplace safety. Sometimes, management may not be aware of certain risks in the workplace.
Were you in a work accident recently and still need help?
If your employer is not helpful in addressing your safety concerns and this leads to an injury, then you may need assistance from an accredited specialist in personal injury.
East Coast Injury Lawyers is a Brisbane personal injury law firm led by accredited specialists in personal injury who can help. Ask yourself:
- Have you been injured in a workplace accident and cannot work?
- Is your condition debilitating but you are still scared that your employer may lay you off and you don’t know if pursuing a claim is worth it?
- Do you feel that your employer has failed in their duty to keep you and your co-workers safe?
- Is WorkCover stopping you from receiving the assistance you need?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then contact East Coast Injury Lawyers for a free, no obligation initial consultation so you can tell us your story. Take advantage of an opportunity to protect your legal rights without any initial up front cost or obligation today by contacting us at 1300 720 544 or filling our case review form.