General obligations for workplace health and safety

In Queensland, under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (WHS Act), an employer has a strict obligation to ensure the health and safety of workers and other people in the workplace. Failure to do so may result in prosecution.

Employees, including apprentices and trainees, also have a responsibility to take care of the workplace health and safety of themselves and others in their workplace. Employees must follow reasonable and lawful instructions given by the employer, not wilfully or recklessly place anyone in the workplace at risk, or misuse or interfere with anything provided for workplace health and safety.

Wearing protective equipment when required or complying with specific procedures to undertake certain tasks are directions that must be complied with. Failure to comply with a reasonable direction may amount to misconduct sufficiently serious to justify the dismissal of that employee.

Everyone in the workplace also has a duty to make sure that there is no bullying.

For more information regarding your obligations and rights regarding workplace health and safety you can also contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, phone 1300 362 128.

Supervision requirements

Workplace safety is a major issue for apprentices and trainees, especially when they are also young workers. Apprentices and trainees must be supervised in the workplace by an appropriately qualified person. This person is required to be permanently engaged in the same workplace as you during the same working hours.

If you feel that you are not being properly supervised by your employer, contact Apprenticeships Info on 1800 210 210.

Strict supervision requirements are imposed on employers of electrical apprentices and trainees under the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld) (Electrical Safety Act) and the Electrical Safety Regulation 2014 (Qld). For further information, contact the Electrical Safety Office on 1300 650 662.

What if I am asked to do something that I feel is unsafe, what can I do?

You have a right to refuse work which might cause injury or harm. In practice this can be very difficult for all workers but especially apprentices and trainees. The WHS Act allows an employee to

cease, or refuse to carry out, work if the worker has a reasonable concern that to carry out the work would expose the worker to a serious risk to the worker’s health or safety, emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard.

In this situation it is most helpful to get advice from your union. If you do not have a union you may wish to obtain legal advice from an employment lawyer. If you have concerns in relation to a workplace health and safety or electrical safety issue, you can contact Work Health and Safety Queensland.

It is unlawful to victimise someone or take other adverse action against someone because they have made a complaint in relation to a safety matter.

I have been injured at work, what do I do now?

If you have been injured at work, or because of your work, you may be eligible to claim workers’ compensation benefits from WorkCover Queensland, or your employer if they are self-insured.

Workplace injuries can happen at work, travelling to and from work or while on a break from work. Workplace injuries can also take place if you are travelling for work, including visiting other workplaces or sites.
Common work-related injuries include:

  • physical injuries such as cuts, broken bones, burns, neck and back injuries, and acquired deafness
  • psychiatric or psychological disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression
  • diseases such as asbestosis
  • continuation or aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

Sometimes injuries at work can lead to death.

­­­Making a workers’ compensation claim

If you have been injured at work or because of work, you should:

  • see your doctor and get a workers’ compensation medical certificate
  • immediately notify your employer about your injury and provide them with a copy of the workers’ compensation medical certificate
  • lodge your claim with WorkCover Queensland  within six months of becoming aware of the injury
  • keep copies of all documents relating to your injury and claim.

There is a detailed process which can vary depending on the type and extent of the injury and whether there is also a possibility of a common law claim for damages. More information on accident and injury can be obtained from the Queensland Law Handbook  or from a lawyer who practises in workers compensation and personal injury law.