Workplace inspections

About WorkSafe ACT inspectors

WorkSafe ACT inspectors visit workplaces to respond to incidents, workplace issues resolution (as requested), and monitor and enforce compliance with these laws:

Our inspectors are appointed primarily to help persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) and businesses:

  • develop and improve safe systems of work
  • prevent workers and others from being injured or becoming ill as a result of their work activities.

Inspectors come from diverse backgrounds. Some have trade experience, and some will have tertiary qualifications in WHS-related disciplines. They are given inductions, on the job coaching, mentoring and training in issues such as manual handling, hazardous substances, construction, noise and electrical safety.

Why inspectors visit

Inspectors visit workplaces to:

  • provide information and advice on the laws;
  • resolve WHS issues;
  • resolve right of entry and workplace access disputes;
  • review disputed provisional improvement notices;
  • conduct inspections and local and national audit campaigns;
  • assess WHS risks to workers and the public;
  • investigate workplace incidents; and
  • investigate reports of unsafe or unhealthy conditions and dangerous work practices.

Inspectors will only pre-arrange workplace visits if they are confident that advance notice will not jeopardise the intention of their visit.

Inspectors' entry powers

Inspectors have specific legal powers under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Act) to enter any workplace that is:

  • authorised by a search warrant;
  • used for carrying out work that involves storing and handling dangerous goods;
  • used for carrying out work that involves operating, using and storing high risk plant; and
  • covered by the Act if the inspector believes it is necessary to do so.

Inspectors can enter with or without the consent of the person with management or control of the place, and without prior notice to any person unless the place is used only for residential purposes and does not involve the storage of dangerous goods, high risk plant or access to a workplace.

Inspectors carry out their role to minimise disruption to any workplace. However, whenever an incident occurs or dangerous work practices exist, they need to intervene to ensure people are safe.

It is an offence to obstruct, threaten or interfere with a WorkSafe ACT inspector who is exercising their powers under the Act.

Entering residential premises

Inspectors have the power to enter a residential premises:

  • when the inspector reasonably suspects a residential premises is used as a workplace;
  • when entry is authorised by a search warrant;
  • that is used for storing or handling dangerous goods; and
  • that involves the use or storage of high risk plant that affects public safety.

They can also do so to gain access to a suspected workplace when:

  • they believe there is no reasonable alternative access available; and
  • entry is at a reasonable time, having regard to when any work is being carried out.

Inspectors must leave residential premises if it does not meet the above criteria.

During the inspection

Inspectors carry photo identification at all times and must clearly display this as soon as they enter a workplace.

People who are not inspectors (for example, technical experts, interpreters or police officers) may accompany an inspector.

Once they have entered the workplace, inspectors will immediately notify the PCBU or the most senior management person on site and any relevant WHS representative for workers at that workplace. They will state:

  • the focus of their visit; and
  • the inspection process that will be followed.

Once at the workplace, inspectors may:

  • inspect or examine any part of the workplace;
  • observe or search any part of the workplace (for example, the use of a machine or work processes);
  • take measurements;
  • take photographs or film things;
  • conduct tests (for example, for presence of lead in paint);
  • take samples of things (for example, of substances used);
  • ask certain documents to be produced (for example, maintenance records kept by a mechanic contracted by an PCBU to do the work);
  • obtain copies of documents (for example, training records, manufacturer’s instructions);
  • make enquiries or conduct surveys to assess the degree of risk or standards of WHS;
  • talk to managers, supervisors, workers and other people when an incident has occurred;
  • enquire into circumstances and probable causes of an incident;
  • require a person to give reasonable help; and
  • seize things as part of the investigation.

After the inspection

At the end of their visit, inspectors will:

  • summarise possible outcomes for the PCBU;
  • explain any action the PCBU needs to take;
  • explain any notices issued; and
  • inform WHS representative/s for the PCBU of any outcomes.

Inspectors may provide the PCBU with an inspection report summarising the inspection findings.

  • variation or cancellation of notices
  • extension of time to comply with improvement notices
  • training of health and safety representatives
  • work groups
  • health and safety committees.

Inspector conduct

Inspectors are expected to deliver high quality and professional services:

  • treating people with respect, dignity, and sensitivity in all circumstances;
  • interacting with people in a timely and efficient manner;
  • remaining professional and consistent in all their dealings;
  • undertaking activities without favouritism or discrimination;
  • explaining all decisions;
  • conducting all activities in accordance with the values outlined in the code of conduct and principles of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. The Global Code of Integrity for Labour Inspection (external link) also provides a framework for inspectors to exercise their powers under the Act.

Explore the following pages under this section to obtain more specific information:

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