A safe and healthy work environment doesn’t just happen—it’s created by working together. A safe and healthy work environment is good for worker health, safety and wellbeing, business sustainability and the economy.
While poor physical work environments can put workers at risk of physical and mental ill-health, your work environment is more than your physical surroundings. It includes the way that you do your work, the materials and equipment that you work with and also the emotional and psychological demands on workers.
The physical work environment is well designed and laid out.
The physical environment workers work in can have a big impact on their health and safety. This includes:
- well-designed floor surfaces, for example non-slip surfaces
- walkways being laid out so cables and wires aren’t run across them
- changes in floor height are clearly marked and physical barriers installed
- work being performed at a comfortable height so workers don’t have to bend, twist, reach or squat a lot
- heavy objects being lifted and moved using mechanical devices like cranes and trolleys
- physical separation between people and moving vehicles
- the workplace being well lit and having good ventilation
- basic amenities like drinking water, toilets and hand washing facilities.
To find out more about the requirements of the physical work environment and managing manual tasks, see the managing the work environment and facilities code of practice and the hazardous manual task code of practice.
Equipment and PPE
Having the right tools for the job is essential for working safely and efficiently. The best way to ensure equipment is safe is to assess risks new equipment will create and control those risks before buying or hiring it.
Equipment you already have needs to be managed as well. This includes:
- guarding moving parts that people could come in contact with
- connecting electrical equipment to a safety switch
- protecting workers from the noise equipment makes
- ensuring the controls of the equipment are easy to understand
- regular maintenance
- training workers to use any equipment they need to operate.
See the code of practice for managing risks of plant in the workplace for more information.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is very common in workplaces but needs to be selected carefully and used in the right way. Choosing the wrong type of PPE or using it incorrectly will mean it won’t provide the protection workers need.
Many workers use chemicals every day at work that could potentially harm their health and safety.
There are workplace health and safety laws that clearly outline how to handle these substances and what you must do to keep workers healthy and safe.
You must also consider the safety of workers, no matter where they are working. Make sure that:
Workers and employers understand the impact of psychological hazards
Psychological injuries at work are typically caused by worker exposure to bullying, fatigue, stress and violence. It is important that workers and managers are aware of these issues in the work environment and how they impact on mental health and business outcomes.
Some simple strategies can make a big difference though. Like:
- train managers to improve their understanding of mental health and increase their confidence and skills to support workers
- connect workers with independent, publicly available support services
- develop a policy to prevent and manage bullying and harassment
- don’t overload people with too much work
- match workers to jobs they have the right skills for
- clarify roles, responsibilities and expectations
- have an open-door policy and genuine conversations about mental health with your workers.
Learn more about how to build a mentally healthy workplace and keep your workers healthy and safe.
Workers of all ages are valued and included
With more people working for longer there is a growing diversity in the ages of workers. A healthy and safe work environment provides support for workers of all ages.
Learn how to build a healthy and safe environment for an ageing workforce.
Learn how you can support your young workers and lay the foundations for healthy and safe working lives.
General health and wellbeing
A healthy and safe work environment also considers workers’ general health and wellbeing. Businesses can’t always control the health risks their workers face. But recognising health and wellbeing risk factors at work will help ensure workers stay healthy and reduce the number of workplace injuries as well.
A safe work environment won’t stay that way by itself. You should:
- clean spills immediately
- replace damaged tools, equipment, furniture and fixtures
- keep walkways clear
- store work materials neatly
- remove waste
- replace consumables, like soap and toilet paper
- get electrical equipment tested regularly by a qualified electrician.
Also consider how maintenance and cleaning work is done. It is important that:
- Maintenance and cleaning tasks are identified and planned.
- Checks are in place to ensure maintenance and cleaning tasks have been completed adequately.
- Workers know how to perform required maintenance and cleaning tasks.
- Protections are in place if maintenance or cleaning tasks must be where it’s usually too dangerous to work.
A safe work environment is prepared for emergencies with everyone aware of their roles and responsibilities. Think about the different types of emergencies that could occur and plan your response for each. An emergency could be:
- a fire
- an explosion
- a gas leak
- a chemical spill
- a medical emergency
- a natural disaster
- a bomb threat or violence.
Your emergency plan depends on the:
- type of work you do
- workplace safety issues
- size of your workplace
- location of your workplace
- number of workers.
Document your emergency plans, train your workers in them and rehearse emergency responses at regular intervals.
You must give workers access to first aid equipment and facilities. Keep first aid kits close to areas where there is a higher risk of injury or illness, such as the kitchen, warehouse and inside all work vehicles.
Additional first aid requirements vary depending on the nature of the work, type of hazards, workplace size and location, as well as the number of workers. To identify your requirements, see the code of practice for first aid in the workplace .
Where can I get more information on designing work?
Safe Work Australia has developed ten principles of good work design that can be applied to a range of workplaces. This guide will help you to keep workers safe and healthy, deliver better business practice and better outcomes for your customers.