Why do inspectors visit workplaces?
Inspectors focus on ensuring that workplace safety practices comply with the requirements of workplace health and safety laws. Inspectors may also provide information and advice on these laws. As part of this role, inspectors may visit workplaces for a variety of reasons, including to:
Each inspector visit is likely to be for a different purpose and some workplaces may receive multiple inspector visits in a short timeframe. For example, one inspector visit may focus on assessing noise levels while another inspector visit may concentrate on examining manual task practices.
Inspectors may sometimes visit workplaces in teams as inspectors may specialise in a particular aspect of safety management (e.g. ergonomics, hazardous substances, etc.). They may also take along other individuals who are not inspectors, including technical experts, interpreters or police officers.
What are inspector powers? How do they work?
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 provides inspectors with a range of powers that may be exercised to improve workplace health and safety in the ACT. The Act includes the following powers :
What happens during an inspector visit?
Workplaces are not usually provided with advance notice of inspector visits. This helps to ensure that the intention of the visit is not compromised.
Inspectors carry photo identification and will identify themselves as soon as they enter a workplace.
When entering a workplace, an inspector will as soon as practicable take all reasonable steps notify the employer or the most senior management person on site of his/her arrival.
What happens when inspectors visit to investigate workplace incidents?
WorkSafe ACT exercises discretion in deciding the extent to which workplace incidents will be investigated. In making these decisions, WorkSafe ACT is guided by the principles set out in the ACT’s work health and safety legislation.
During a visit to a workplace to conduct an investigation into an incident, an inspector may:
If evidence is seized an inspector will issue a receipt and must return the item at the end of any court proceedings relating to the item. If any items are being seized, the inspector will explain the process for seizure, including whether you can continue to use the item until it is collected. The inspector will also advise who you can contact within WorkSafe ACT for updates about when the item is likely to be returned.
An investigation of a serious workplace incident will usually begin immediately after the incident is notified to WorkSafe ACT. An inspector may visit the workplace on several occasions in order to complete the investigation. The time taken to complete the investigation will vary depending on the circumstances. More complex incidents may take many months to complete.
In the event of a workplace death, the next of kin will be contacted by WorkSafe ACT and advised of a contact person and how they can access further information about the investigation.
How does an inspector enforce the law?
Inspectors may use a number of methods to ensure that work health and safety laws are upheld. Inspectors may:
The ACT work health and safety Compliance and Enforcement Policy 2009, available on the WorkSafe ACT website, provides further information about these enforcement options as well as the investigation and prosecution policies.
When taking enforcement action, inspectors will explain:
If you are unsure about what is required, please ask the inspector to clarify any issues.
What if I disagree with an inspector’s decision?
If your interests are affected by an inspector’s decision, you have the option to request a review of a decision, appeal a decision or apply for withdrawal of an infringement notice.
Reviews of decisions
Some decisions can be reviewed internally by WorkSafe ACT. If you would like an internally reviewable decision to be reconsidered, or to seek further information about how the decision was made, you must make a written application to WorkSafe ACT with enough supporting information to enable the review to be undertaken. This Application for Internal Review form is available from WorkSafe ACT. The application should be made within 28 days of receiving the original decision.
Further details are in Internal Review of Decisions - Guidance for Applicants [DOC]
The review will be undertaken internally and you will receive written notice about the outcome. There are three possible outcomes from the review:
Appeals to ACAT
Many decisions made by inspectors can be subject to review by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal [ACAT]. To apply for a statement of reasons for the decision, or for review of a decision, you must lodge an application in writing within 28 days of receiving the original decision. If you are appealing an internal review of a decision, you must submit your written notice of appeal within 28 days of receiving the reasons for the review decision. All appeals must be lodged with ACAT. Forms and further information are available on the ACAT website.
Applications about infringement notices
Infringement Notices are issued under a separate law to Prohibition Notices. If you have been issued with an Infringement Notice you may apply to WorkSafe ACT for additional time to pay, or for the withdrawal of the notice, or to dispute liability for the infrigment notice offence.
More information about reviews of decisions, appeals and applications about infringement notices is outlined in the Magistrates Court Act 1930 and is explained on the back of the relevant enforcement notices.
What is expected of me during an inspector visit?
You must provide reasonable help to assist the inspector in their work. It is an offence to obstruct, threaten or interfere with an inspector who is exercising his/her powers under the Act.
What conduct should I expect of inspectors?
Inspectors are expected to deliver high quality, professional services in which they:
If you feel that an inspector has not operated within these principles, you can lodge a complaint.