SafeWork SA

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WHS Inspectors


SafeWork SA administers South Australia’s health, safety and workplace relations related legislation, including the Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation. It does this by providing information, advice and support as well as compliance and enforcement activities to ensure safe, fair, productive working lives. The National Compliance and Enforcement Policy sets out our approach to compliance and enforcement activities.

The role of our inspectors is to ensure those with a duty under the WHS legislation have fulfilled their obligations to ensure workplaces are safe and that the activities of a workplace do not pose a risk to other persons, such as members of public. They do this by performing proactive compliance audits and by responding to incidents that have exposed or caused injury to a person.

Incidents

Unfortunately incidents do happen. If breaches of legislation are detected, our inspectors will take the appropriate action to prevent health and safety issues from occurring in the future.

Under work health and safety legislation, we may take action in regards to offences associated with:

  • notification of a workplace incident to SafeWork SA
  • work licensing requirements
  • workplace consultation arrangements
  • workplace entry by entry permit holders
  • failing to comply with powers exercised by SafeWork SA Inspectors
  • misuse of information, including providing false or misleading information and disclosure of confidential information.

We will only address matters within our jurisdiction, however we do work collaboratively with other agencies should matters cover multiple jurisdictions.

Notifiable incidents

We will make enquiries relating to a notifiable incident if the incident:

  • is within SafeWork SA’s jurisdiction
  • meets the definition of a notifiable incident
  • was the result of a work-related activity.

We will not make enquiries relating to a notifiable incident if the incident:

  • is a common law or public liability matter
  • is under the jurisdiction of another authority responsible to regulate that scope of work, such as police matters, matters involving the work of electricians, incidents relating to disability, aged care, schools or health that are covered by another Act.
  • involves a non-work related medical episode or death
  • arises from the normal conduct of a sports activity
  • involves an aircraft (excluding on ground maintenance or on ground activities)
  • arises from the normal conduct of children at play eg. falling off a swing at the playground
  • takes place in a public space (unless arising from the conduct of a PCBU).

Complaints

All complaints we receive will be handled in a timely manner with consideration to the:

  • jurisdictional scope
  • nature of the incident
  • seriousness of the injury
  • degree of risk
  • history of the duty holder.

Unless there is a clear work health and safety issue, we will not make further enquiries or be involved in inspecting or investigating a matter that:

  • is not within SafeWork SA’s jurisdiction
  • another authority is responsible to regulate the scope of work,  such as police matters, matters involving the work of electricians, incidents relating to disability, aged care, schools or health that are covered by another Act.
  • is a Commonwealth industrial employment issue
  • involves the conduct of independently elected council members
  • relates to defining boundaries and the use of fences
  • relates to food safety
  • relates to the conduct of medical professionals such as doctors, dentists, nurses and physiotherapists
  • is a return to work complaint
  • relates to public spaces where the space is not a workplace
  • relates to an incident arising from the normal conduct of a sports activity
  • relates to the environment, such as site contamination, air and water quality, pollution, waste and radiation.

Addressing incidents and complaints

We apply a range of methods to address notifiable incidents and complaints that include:

  • conducting a full investigation
  • making initial enquiries to determine the level of compliance and any appropriate compliance action to rectify the matter
  • addressing the matter remotely, either via telephone or written correspondence
  • attending the site or the workplace to undertake compliance-based inquiries
  • taking no further action after assessing the information received.

Inspector visits

Inspectors have certain powers under the WHS legislation to enable them to enter a workplace, with or without the consent of who has management over the workplace, to enquire into and investigate matters relating to health and safety.

If one of our inspectors visits your premises you are required to:

  • co-operate with the inspector, and
  • answer any of their questions or provide any documents that they request, even if that information will incriminate another person or your company.

You are not required to provide information or documentation that:

  • may incriminate you or subject you to penalty
  • is subject to legal professional privilege.

Whilst on your work premises, our inspectors may:

  • inspect, examine anything and make enquiries at the workplace
  • take measurements, conduct tests and make sketches or recordings (including photographs, films, audio, video, digital or other recording)
  • require a person at the workplace to give them reasonable help to exercise their inspector powers
  • require the production of documents
  • copy and retain documents
  • seize anything from the workplace, including the workplace itself or part of it
  • ask questions and conduct interviews
  • remove samples for analysis or seize anything as evidence
  • request a person’s name and address
  • take affidavits.

It is a criminal offence to hinder or obstruct our inspectors during an investigation. Fines of up to $10,000 for an individual and $50,000 for an incorporated entity apply.

Enforcement options

SafeWork SA has a range of enforcement options that can be used to ensure compliance or to take action against those who have failed in their duty under the legislation.

Compliance notices

Inspectors can issue notices where they reasonably believe there is a contravention of the WHS legislation. These notices can be issued to individuals or to the business itself.

  • Improvement notices – are issued where there is a requirement to remedy a contravention of the WHS legislation within a specified timeframe
  • Prohibition notices – are issued to stop an activity from continuing because there is a serious risk to the health and safety of a person emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard
  • Non-disturbance notices – are issued to preserve and prevent disturbance of a particular worksite (including the operation of plant) to enable the inspector to facilitate their enquiries. 

Failure to comply with these notices is an offence under the WHS legislation.

If you disagree with an inspector's decision you can, in many cases, seek an internal or external review of the decision.

Expiation notices

Inspectors can issue expiation notices for a range of offences under various South Australian legislation administered by SafeWork SA. Expiation notices are a monetary fine for failing to comply with a particular piece of legislation.

Failure to pay the expiation fee may result in prosecution.

Enforceable undertakings

The WHS legislation allows the Executive Director of SafeWork SA to consider undertakings as an alternative to proceeding to a prosecution. These are commonly referred to as enforceable undertakings (EUs). 

An EU is a written, legally binding agreement between the regulator and the company or individual who proposed the undertaking. The company or individual is obliged to carry out specific activities outlined in the undertaking.

Failure to follow an EU may lead to additional compliance or enforcement action.

Prosecution

An Inspector’s compliance and enforcement activities may lead to a prosecution being filed in the South Australian Employment Tribunal. Convictions may be against individuals or business entities.