SafeWork NSW issued a ministerial media release last week to remind “businesses and workers that it is a criminal offence to hinder, obstruct, assault, threaten, or intimidate an inspector”.
This media release was in response to two recent incidents of alleged assaults of 2 SafeWork NSW Inspectors. Police are currently investigating the two incidents. The release warns that;
“All workplaces have the obligation to not just provide necessary access to the workplace, but to be honest and provide information as requested.
We will investigate all instances of alleged intimidation and assault of SafeWork NSW inspectors, we will report such instances to NSW Police and where warranted, we will prosecute those offences.” (You can read the full release on SafeWork NSW’s website by putting this link in your browser.
It is very unlikely that a Safework NSW Inspector would be intimidated or assaulted in your workplace. However you may feel it is a good time to review the system and persons you have in place to appropriately handle the situation if an Inspector did visit you. Make sure that the persons who will be handling the situation or will be in contact with the Inspector, know what is required.
What is the Role of a Safework Inspector?
The role of an Inspector is explained in SafeWork NSW’s Fact Sheet, SafeWork NSW Inspectors – Helping to Keep your Workplace Safe;
“Visits by SafeWork inspectors to workplaces could be in response to an incident, complaint or request for advice, or as part of a targeted injury prevention program.
During these visits, inspectors may:
• provide information and advice on the requirements of WHS or workers compensation law
• explain the range of SafeWork products and services available to your business
• provide practical advice on how to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury and illness
• investigate and/or verify compliance with legislative obligations
• Issue notices or other instructions to secure compliance with legislation.”
The Fact Sheet then goes on to answer;
What happens when an Inspector visits a workplace?
(You can read and download the complete content of the Fact Sheet from SafeWork NSW’s website by pasting this link into your browser, https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/314849/SafeWork_inspectors.pdf )
What is Expected of You?
The answer given in the Fact Sheet is:
“We realise that you have a job to do and our inspectors aim to cause as little disruption as possible. In the process of fulfilling their obligations, however, visits by inspectors can create interruptions to your workplace, and can take place with little or no notice. To help the inspection process it is requested that you:
• be honest, courteous and provide information as requested
• provide necessary access to the workplace
• provide reasonable help to assist the inspector in their work
• not conceal the existence of a location, person, plant, substance or thing.
Please be aware that it is an offence to hinder, obstruct, assault, threaten, intimidate or impersonate an inspector or a person assisting an inspector. Doing so may lead to a full investigation, which could result in a fine or prosecution.”
The Fact Sheet then goes on to answer the question, What powers do SafeWork Inspectors have?
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