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Working environment


What do I need to do?

As a business owner, you need to maintain a work environment without risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Risks need to be eliminated or, if this is not possible, minimised.

Why should I do it?

Apart from being one of your responsibilities, maintaining a healthy and safe work environment makes good business sense. By doing so, work goes smoothly, there are fewer incidents and injuries and less time is lost (time is money).

How do I do it?

A healthy and safe work environment

You need to make sure:

  • The health and safety hazards in the work environment are identified and the risks controlled
  • the workplace layout allows a person to enter, move around and exit without risk
  • work space is adequate for the tasks performed
  • floors and other surfaces are suitable
  • tasks such as lifting and carrying are reviewed and risks managed
  • lighting and ventilation are suitable
  • hazardous chemicals used are identified and risks associated with their use controlled
  • the extremes of environmental temperatures (hot and cold) are avoided
  • work near essential services (electrical items and/or power supply) does not create risks
  • adequate facilities for workers are provided, such as toilets, drinking water and eating facilities.


An emergency plan is also required under the new laws, however, while you have up to 12 months to implement the plan, you must continue to provide for emergencies. It should cover rapid response evacuation (For example, fire, hazardous chemical spills, natural disasters) notification, medical assistance and communication. You need to inform workers of the plan and test your emergency procedures.

Managing risks

Managing risks is something you do every day as a small business operator. Managing risks is simply the process of eliminating risks to health and safety. If this is not possible, risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

Developing and following a risk management plan is a good way to make your business a healthy and safe place to work. The following approach is one example:

  • Identify the hazards (A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm) in your business — not all will be obvious so: 
    • observe the different steps in each work task
    • look at what caused past incidents and/ or near misses
    • talk with the people who work for you
    • refer to machinery operator guides, safety data sheets (for hazardous chemicals, manufacturers instructions, industry guides or warnings and other available information)
  • Eliminate the risk if possible
  • Control the risks if you could not eliminate them (A risk is the likelihood that harm will occur from exposure to a hazard) and their potential/possible impact (refer to identify the hazards above).
  • Determine your priorities for managing risks using the listed information you now have.


Control measures

Decide on the best way or combination of ways to eliminate or minimise the risks on your list. A proven approach to improve work health and safety is to apply the following actions, if possible, from the top:

  1. eliminate the hazard or risk altogether
  2. change / substitute materials, machinery or work processes to safer ones (eg:, use mechanical lifting aids, avoid unnecessary work at heights)
  3. isolate the hazard (For example: separate people from the hazard with a physical barrier, relocate the hazard to an alternate location)
  4. use engineering to improve safety (For example; place physical guards on moving machine parts, sound—proof equipment to reduce noise, redesign tools and equipment).
  5. use administrative measures such as worker training and/or Safe Work Method Statements or limiting the time of exposure (For example. job rotation, or varying the time when a particular process is carried out) to control the hazard/s. 
  6. provide personal protective equipment (PPE) a short term measure, to reduce exposure to a hazard (For example: safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves, hard hats to complement one or more of the above control measures). PPE is the least effective control measure and requires a high level of supervision.


Monitor and review — check regularly that the hazard is still fixed and there are no new risks or hazards. Include new hazards and risks in your risk plan - the above approach will help to eliminate or minimise them.


guide iconRead the Managing the work environment and facilities: Code of practice

guide iconRead the Confined spaces: Code of practice

guide iconRead the How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace: Code of practice

guide iconRead the Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work: Code of practice

guide iconRead the How to manage work health and safety risks: Code of practice

guide iconRead the Managing the risks of falls at workplaces: Code of practice

Link iconReview the transitional arrangements for hazardous work


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Tip of the day
Did you know that employers, sole traders, partnerships are now known as PCBUs - persons conducting a business or undertaking?