Complete working as an employee section

Managing risk and work health and safety

This section explains the concept of risk management and describes some practical strategies to assist organisations to manage the risks they face. While the principles discussed are relevant to all community organisations, the strategies will be most appropriate for small to medium agencies. Larger organisations will probably need to go into more detail than that provided here and may go as far as making risk management the sole or prime duty of a staff member.


Risk management and legal prescriptions

Compliance with the law is not always easy. Laws have become so numerous and complex that it seems impossible to comply with them all, every time. Nonprofit organisations wish to avoid breaking the law not only because of the penalties, but also because negative publicity may affect its standing and trustworthiness in the community. Nonprofit organisations, more than most other organisations, rely on the public’s trust to exist. Donations and volunteers disappear when an organisation is characterised as ‘untrustworthy’ because of breaches of the law.

An organisation will probably identify the risk of a fine for breaking a law in this risk management process. For example, there is a risk of a fine or penalty fee if an organisation is required by law to file its annual audited financial report with a government department. These types of risks need to be dealt with in a slightly different way than other risks the organisation may face. This is because the law requires an organisation to comply with the provision, not make a decision to insure against the event occurring, or to accept the risk of being discovered and fined. It is more appropriate to deal with such issues by a legal compliance plan. Standards Australia has devised a special standard for such purposes (AS 3806: 2006). A legal compliance plan manages exposure to breaching the law for the organisation, board members and management. Some important differences between risk management and legal compliance concepts are:

  • Risk management reduces and manages risks; compliance seeks to eliminate or prevent them completely
  • Risk management undertakes a cost/benefit approach (if cost exceeds the benefits from control, reduce control); compliance must prevent a breach occurring, regardless of the cost

The benchmark for risk management is set by the nonprofit organisation; the benchmark for legal compliance is set by the law.

Workplace health and safety

The Queensland Government's Workplace health and safety website provides guidelines and information about relevant legislation to help keep your organisation's staff and volunteers healthy and safe.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) and its Regulations came into operation on 1 January 2012 to bring into force a harmonised National workplace health and safety approach. Historically, workplace health and safety legislation was introduced to prevent a person's death, injury or illness being caused by a workplace, workplace areas or activities or by plant and substances used in a workplace.Hands holding safe sign

Identify hazards

A broad range of activities and working situations are covered by the legislation. One of the aims of the legislation is to encourage self regulation by employers towards the development of internal responsibility for health and safety systems, health and safety training and programs. In particular, this means that all employers (including a person conducting a business or undertaking and/or a  person with management or control of the workplace) must assume responsibility for identifying hazards arising from the activities of their organisation and workplace, assessing the risks that may result from those hazards, deciding on appropriate control measures to prevent or minimise the risks and putting those control measures in place. Constant monitoring and reviews of those control measures are also necessary.

Employee participation in work health and safety

The self regulatory nature of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) requires employee participation in the formulation, implementation and management of occupational health and safety issues. The legislation provides for the setting up of health and safety management structures at workplaces where employees and employee organisations may be actively involved in the management and consultation of health and safety. Such management structures may include the formation of a health and safety committee consisting of  Work Health and Safety Representative and other members from the workplace. The functions of these committees may include:

  • Encouraging and maintaining an active interest in health and safety at work
  • Considering measures for training, consultation and education in health and safety
  • Advising employees about the formulation, review and distribution of standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety
  • Assisting in the resolution of issues regarding health and safety

The Act makes provision for the appointment of Workplace Health and Safety Representatives.  Workplace Health and Safety Representatives are elected by their co-workers.

Enquiries regarding the application of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld), Regulation and Codes of Practice, including the supply of relevant forms, should be directed to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on 1300 369 915 or go to www.whs.qld.gov.au. There are a number of offices in Queensland. Contact details can be obtained from the Department's website.


Work Health and Safety (WHS) and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) —what’s the difference?
Before 2012, health and safety laws were known as OH&S laws and differences in the OH&S laws across the states and territories were confusing for business owners and employers.
To make the laws more consistent across Australia, in 2012 the state and territory governments agreed to develop model laws (WHS Act and Regulations), on which they could base their health and safety laws.
All States and Territories have made new WHS laws based on the model laws, except for Victoria and Western Australia. This is why the Victorian and Western Australian acts and regulations still refer to OH&S (or OSH) instead of WHS.
You can find out more about the model work health and safety laws on the Safe Work Australia Website. 

The principal WHS law in the Commonwealth jurisdiction consists of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, supported by the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011. This legislation, which took effect on 1 January 2012, is based on the national model WHS legislation developed by Safe Work Australia in consultation with the states and territories. It applies in all Commonwealth employment, Commonwealth public authorities and to most self-insurers under the Commonwealth scheme for workers’ compensation.

Bullying in the work place

What is work place bullying?Man holding head in hands

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.

Repeated behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

To read more go to the Safe Work website


Useful links

Related legislation

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Workplace bullying

Laws and legislation