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Workplace health and safety explained

If you’re planning to work in Australia on a 457 visa, 485 visa, or 417 visa, it’s important to know your rights at work, especially those covering your health and safety. We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about your safety and rights at work.

What is Occupational Health and Safety?

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), also sometimes called Workplace Health and Safety, is the name for the rules that protect the safety, health and welfare of people at their places of work. OHS laws differ slightly from state to state but there are certain rights and processes that all business and organisations in Australia must follow.

No matter where you work, or what you do, while you’re in Australia it’s your right to be able to do so in a safe and secure environment, free from danger. There are laws in place to ensure that employers know their obligations to their employees, and there are consequences for neglecting them.

What are my OHS rights at work?

As we mentioned, OHS laws differ from state to state, but there are basic rights that every worker across Australia is entitled to. These are:

  • Not to have your health and safety put at risk at your workplace
  • Be provided with safe systems of work
  • Have your health and safety conditions monitored by your employer
  • Be provided with adequate facilities at work
  • Be provided with accommodation, if needed
  • Have a say in work health and safety issues that affect your work
  • Refuse to perform work that you believe would put you at risk


What should I do if I get injured at work?

The first thing to do if you get injured at work is tell somebody. That can be your manager, your boss, human services or an OHS delegate. Try and take photos of the site where you got injured and of any equipment or obstructions that caused or contributed to the injury.

The next step is to visit a doctor, as this will form the basis of your OHS compensation claim if you choose to make one. Here is a guide to help you if you’re injured at work. You have a right to:

  • Visit your own doctor. You can refuse to be accompanied by your employer, and you don’t have to see a company doctor.
  • Take time off work to recover from your injury. Your doctor should give you a Workcover certificate to give to your employers confirming you need the time off.
  • Have an OHS or union representative with you when you talk to your employer about your injury.
  • Be paid back for reasonable medical costs resulting from the injury.
  • Return to work that your doctor has advised is manageable.
  • Access rehabilitation or retraining services that will help you get back to work.
  • Request to see all paperwork your employer lodges for the Workcover claim, to ensure that the information is correct.

Do I need to purchase special insurance for work?

No. While your Working Visa Health Cover doesn’t specifically cover you for workplace accidents or illnesses, you are automatically covered by the business or organisation you work for. However if you’re applying for a 457 or 485 visa you will have to buy health insurance as part of your visa requirements.

Please note that the above is general advice, and each individual case is different, as are the laws in each state. For more information contact your workplace OHS rep, human services department, or union representative. You can also contact Unions Australia on 1300 486 466.

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