WA WHS regulator shines its spotlight on aged and residential care industry
By Nicholas Beech and Holly Gretton
The aged and residential care industry has been subject to scrutiny in recent years. This follows the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and the final report tabled in the Federal Parliament on 1 March 2021.
In addition to specific industry regulation, aged and residential care facilities are subject to applicable work, health and safety laws (WHS Laws). This adds another important layer of compliance for those in the industry.
In Western Australia, the WHS regulator, WorkSafe WA, is undertaking a ‘proactive inspection program’ to review WHS issues in WA aged care and residential care facilities. Facilities across metropolitan and regional areas of WA will be randomly selected for an inspection to identify any non-compliance with WHS Laws.
We explore below the applicability of the WHS Laws to the industry, what may be expected from the program and how to prepare.
Applicability of WHS Laws
The Work, Health and Safety Act 2020 (WA) (WHS Act) and associated regulations apply to ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) which is defined broadly, and which will capture organisations operating aged care and residential care facilities.
A PCBU must take all reasonably practical steps to eliminate or minimise risks to the physical and psychological health and safety of workers and ensure the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out by the PCBU. A worker is any person who does work for the PCBU, and other persons captures any person who is not a worker, including residents of and guests attending a facility.
In order to ensure that it meets this primary duty of care, an aged or residential care facility is required to take a proactive risk management approach to health and safety in the workplace. Risk management involves:
- identifying hazards, which are things or situations that may cause harm;
- assessing the risks, being the harm that might occur when exposed to a hazard;
- controlling the risks, either by eliminating the hazard or risk if reasonably practicable, or by minimising the risks to the extent reasonably practicable; and
- monitoring and reviewing the control measures to ensure they remain effective.
In assessing what control measures are reasonably practicable, the facility must:
- generally consider the likelihood and potential consequences of the risk, what is known about the ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, the availability and suitability of those measures and the costs of those measures;
- consider a number of prescribed factors in relation to psychosocial hazards, which are hazards that arise from, or relate to the design or management of work, a work environment, plant at a workplace or workplace interactions and which may cause psychological harm, including anxiety, depression and chronic disease.
Undertaking risk management processes is important for a facility to ensure it fulfils its industry duties and compliance requirements. However, the hazards and risks that need to be identified, assessed, and controlled under the WHS Laws will not necessarily align with other industry-specific risks.
What to expect with an inspection
WorkSafe WA has identified residential aged care as an industry with ‘significant challenges in relation to workplace violence and aggression and a high number of injuries due to manual handling and slips, trips and falls.’ Staff training has also been specifically identified as a priority issue of the program.
WorkSafe WA has announced that the aim of the program is to assist PCBUs in the aged care industry to fulfill their WHS responsibilities. This suggests that WorkSafe WA intends to primarily adopt a collaborative approach to the program by identifying issues and working with PCBUs to rectify them whenever possible.
However, should any non-compliance with WHS Laws be identified during an inspection, a facility may be issued with an improvement or prohibition notice or be subjected to other enforcement action.
You might be also interested in...
Work Health & Safety | 31 Aug 2023
Sex Discrimination Act: the positive duty and work, health and safety duties – some initial guidance and thoughts
The Australian Human Rights Commission has issued Guidelines that set out the steps that the Commission expects employers and PCBUs to take to comply with the new positive duty under the Sex Discrimination Act.
Work Health & Safety | 11 Jul 2023
Western Australian rail operators need to be aware that the state’s rail safety laws will be changing. We explore the current state of play, proposed changes and what’s next.