Q. What are the major OHS responsibilities of employers and employees?


The duty of employers is the broad duty of care under common law. Each case involves examining circumstances such as the nature of the job, skill levels required, tasks being performed.

There is a threefold division:

  • Duty to provide safe premises
  • Duty to provide safe plant and equipment
  • Duty to provide a safe work system

Courts base decisions on what a “reasonable” employer would have done.

Employees have a common law duty to carry out work in a skilful and competent manner and to exercise reasonable care. The extent of competence depends on the skill and expertise of the individual worker. Employees must display competence, care, obedience and good faith.

The duties of an employee safety representative are to represent the health and safety interests of employees, to encourage safe work practices, and to bring to the notice of employers any safety or health hazards.

OHS legislation at commonwealth and state levels codify these duties and impose penalties for breaches.

Trade unions take a strong interest in OHS issues and seek, through influencing state and federal legislation:

  • recognition of union-appointed OHS representatives and a definition of their rights and powers.
  • environmental and medical monitoring of workplaces
  • the right to see employers OHS policies (thus making sure the employers have one)
  • prevention policies in workplaces to minimise the risks of injury and disease.

Unions maintain the right to industrial action to ensure safe workplaces.

Q. What sort of things do hairdressers have to do to keep there business safe and running under occupational health and safety?


All small employers will be required by Law as from the 1st of September 2003 to carry out a risk assessment to identify all workplace risks.

Any of the risks/hazards which have been identified need to be addressed and measures to control those risks put in place.

The Unions are currently developing hazard and risk assesment sheets for all industries including hairdressing. This will be available shortly on our website.

The risks in your industry are

  • exposure to dermatitis ( this is a major problem in this industry)
  • exposure to chemicals ,
  • slips trips and falls,
  • occupational overuse syndrome ( RSI),
  • possible transmission of infectious diseases,
  • security ie robbery/armed hold up,
  • staff working long hours
  • no breaks,
  • travelling home late at night.

These are just a few of the risks that are in your industry that need to be considered during the risks assesment process and you need to develop the ways of reducing risks in your own workplace, for example

  • What infection control procedures do you have in place?
  • Is all equipment steralised?

A number of hairdressers have been fined by WorkCover for not having theses procedures in place.

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