The implementation and delivery of a work health and safety (WHS) induction program is an important part of the development of a positive workplace health safety and culture for an organisation.
While induction programs are a way for employers to introduce new employees to their organisation, a WHS induction program is an equally essential step in the new starter process.
A WHS induction program will usually cover a wide range of work health and safety issues including the health and safety responsibilities of the employer and the employee as well as the organisation’s process for reporting incidents and hazards in the workplace, risk management procedures, and its emergency and first aid procedures.
In some cases a two-part WHS program is appropriate:
A general component introducing new employees to the general safety obligations, policies and procedures of your organisation; and
A position/site specific component which identifies specific hazards and risks relevant to the employee’s position or location and instructs the employee in the safe system of work for the completion of tasks or in the use of equipment or materials (such as through Safe Work Method Statements). For example, an employee working in an office predominately in sedentary duties would face different safety risks to an outdoor employee who performs manual handling duties and uses heavy equipment.
Existing employees who have transferred from another department or location, or employees who are have returned to work after a period out of the workforce should also undertake WHS induction training.
WHS induction should not be limited to employees. Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) employers have a primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all “workers”, defined to include contractors or subcontractors (and their employees), labour hire employees, apprentices and trainees, volunteers, outworkers and work experience students. WHS induction programs should also be extended to all such “workers”.
In April 2015, Norco Co-operative Limited entered into an enforceable undertaking with WorkCover NSW following an incident where a worker suffered injury after he became caught in a compactor. As part of the undertaking, Norco agreed to develop and introduce a WHS induction component for its online learning management system. The WHS induction program is required to be to be accessed and completed by all new Norco employees.
In Humphries v Shoalhaven City Council  NSWDC 216, Shoalhaven City Council was found to be in breach of its duty of care under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) for failing to provide training and induction to a labour hire employee who suffered injury because he was required to lift heavy concrete manholes. Levy J held in this case that a workplace induction for the safe lifting of manholes should have been provided to the labour hire employee before he was asked to perform the task. The labour hire employee was awarded $753,369.59 in damages.
A WHS induction program offers employers an opportunity to ensure that all employees receive relevant training. Similarly keeping proper records proving that WHS training was conducted is important, particularly in workers compensation matters where there may be a claim for work injury damages or where there is an investigation by WorkCover. Such records may assist in showing that the employer appropriately provided training and instruction to an employee in compliance with their duties.
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