ASK RENATA

Our DWG proposed a fix for a workplace hazard. However, our employer did a So Far As is Reasonably Practicable (SFARP) assessment without telling us and decided the costs are too high, so the fix won't happen.

When deciding if the cost of eliminating or reducing a hazard or risk is ‘reasonably practicable,’ WorkSafe must consider each of the matters set out in section 20(2) of our OHS Act, with a clear presumption in favour of safety. The highest level of control should be implemented unless the cost of doing so is extremely unreasonable compared to the benefit of reducing the hazard or risk.

When determining if a cost is reasonable, consideration must be given to both the likelihood and severity of the harm, and the resulting reduction in harm the safety measure would provide. The more likely and severe the harm, the less important the cost of the safety measure becomes. A duty-holder should know, within the available state of knowledge, about the ways of eliminating or reducing hazards and risks.

HSRs, together with their DWG, need to establish a credible argument that the risk is likely to eventuate and that the resulting harm would be sufficiently serious that employer inaction on the basis of cost becomes indefensible.

Read more about how WorkSafe applies the law in relation to ‘Reasonably Practicable’ here. You may also find our webpage on the concept of ensuring health and safety helpful.

Worth noting: when your employer ‘conducted a SFARP assessment’ without telling you, they likely breached section 35 of the Act – the duty to consult. It also seems there are psychosocial risks associated with sending you and your DWG into work environments that you know to be unsafe, without adequate controls implemented.

We encourage you to pursue remedy via your Safety Issue Resolution procedure. Do you know who your employer’s nominated representative for resolving safety issues is? This is often someone with the title of OHS Manager or similar.

To resolve safety issues, under section 73 of our OHS Act, the HSR and employer rep follow the agreed workplace safety issue resolution procedure - or if there is no agreed procedure - the issue resolution procedure found in Chapter 2.1 of our OHS regulations.

There is more information on this in WorkSafe’s Employee Representation Guide.

We encourage you to formally raise the issue (remembering it’s always a good idea to seek the endorsement and support of your DWG first) and ask that the issue be resolved.

You may find our record of consultation form handy.

If the issue is not resolved within a reasonable time, or the employer or their rep don’t want to address the problem, a HSR has the right under section 60 to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).

Once an employer has received a PIN, the employer cannot ignore it - the only two options are to either call an inspector within 7 days (see Section 63) or do what the PIN requests - otherwise the employer is breaching the Act (read more here). 

In addition, we strongly encourage workers to contact their Union for expert advice and assistance. Your Union employs experienced officials and officers, able to provide additional guidance and representation, should you need it.

In the meantime you may find our Right to refuse unsafe work webpage of helpful.

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