WHS and Wellness

Our national WHS and wellness team can work collaboratively with your organisation to proactively manage all WHS and wellbeing issues.

Do you need advice? We have plenty to share.
We provide a complete WHS and wellness service which includes advice on legislative interpretation, and safety management systems, right through to support in relation to internal WHS auditing and system reviews. Through our pro-active approach to WHS we can: 

  • identify any relevant changes in legislation, trends in WHS prosecutions, and emerging areas (such as mental health in the workplace) that impact you
  • assist you to engage with regulators in relation to legislative interpretation issues and legislative review processes
  • analyse workplace needs and develop compliance systems designed to identify and manage WHS risks across your organisation
  • develop appropriate WHS policies, manuals and procedures
  • contribute to the ongoing development of your overarching framework for ensuring the health and safety of your workers and appropriate management of staff mental health issues
  • advise on systems to manage WHS risks arising from the engagement of contractors and labour hire staff.

Has there been a workplace incident? Yes, we can help.
The steps taken immediately after an incident can shape the workplace and regulatory outcomes for your organisation. We will leverage our experience in managing incidents across high-risk sectors, such as energy and resources, construction, agriculture, transport and manufacturing, and the knowledge we have gathered through relationships we have developed with a number of key regulators and their inspectors, to: 

  • ensure key issues are not overlooked in the hours following an incident – including establishing legal privilege (if required) and managing interested parties such as employees, subcontractors, unions and regulators
  • present you with a realistic assessment of the prospective outcome – and develop appropriate responses having regard to these assessments
  • proactively manage regulator investigations 
  • manage advocacy in legal proceedings following incidents – including coronial inquests and prosecutions.

Our national team will support you, around the clock, wherever you are, for as long as it takes.

Does your workforce require training? We have modules ready to go.

Chambers lists our training as being 'the best in the business'. We offer:

  • WHS training to protect stakeholders – we provide due diligence training to Boards and other Officers to enable these individuals to take the positive steps required to ensure they discharge their obligations under health and safety legislation. Officers in most jurisdictions can be prosecuted independently of the company and without any incident occurring, for a failure to exercise due diligence to ensure the business complies with its safety obligations
  • WHS incident response training – this is a tailored training package based on your organisation's incident response framework and is aimed at ensuring that the stressful aftermath of an incident is managed in a structured way that protects your organisation and its officers
  • WHS training to enable proper implementation of policies and procedures – practical methods of ensuring compliance with WHS obligations across the organisation
  • training about mental health issues for business leaders, front-line managers, HR staff and in-house legal counsel – these bespoke sessions are developed to address the needs of your organisation and often see us partner with a psychologist to deliver training which ensures your leaders have the necessary practical and legal knowledge of mental health issues in the workplace.

Is managing the mental health of your workforce difficult? We can provide practical guidance.

In our recent survey about managing mental health in the workplace, more than 50% of participants said they were seeing more staff mental health issues than in the preceding 12 months and 75% of participants are spending up to 25% of their time dealing with staff mental health issues. We can provide assistance with:

  • developing or auditing your framework for managing staff with mental health issues – this involves undertaking a risk assessment of your organisation to identify the risks specific to your organisation in relation to mental health issues, and developing or auditing your framework for addressing those risks 
  • training about mental health issues for business leaders, front-line managers, HR staff and in-house legal counsel – these bespoke sessions are developed to address the needs of your organisation and often see us partner with a psychologist to deliver training which ensures your leaders have the necessary practical and legal knowledge of mental health issues in the workplace
  • managing the implications of staff members facing mental health issues – including threats of suicide, long-term absence, disruptive behaviours, performance management and termination.

Helping clients, just like you
Among others, we have advised the following clients on WHS matters: Anglo Coal,  Boeing, Brookfield Multiplex, Catholic Education Office, CBRE, Coles Supermarkets, Coles Myer Logistics, Connector Motorway, Donaldson Coal, Energy Developments, Ergon Energy, ENERGEX, Frasers Property (formerly Australand), Goodyear and Dunlop Tyres, Investa, LendLease, Linfox, Macquarie Group, Myer, Peabody Energy, Powerlink Queensland, Qantas, Roche Eltin JV Urban Pacific, Savanna Energy, SunWater, Thiess, Village Roadshow, Westpac, Woodside and many State and Federal Government entities.

Advising Government Department client on contractor safety obligations

Our client required advice on its obligations under multiple safety regimes in the context of managing construction and emergency electrical work on its infrastructure at sites under the control of contractors.

We provided clear, practical advice to the Department on its WHS obligations in the form of a report. We also prepared an Interface Agreement for the Department to enter into with contractors working on its infrastructure.

Our report enabled the Department to clearly understand how it could discharge its obligations under various safety legislation during the project, including what steps it was required to take in relation to contractors performing work on its infrastructure, to discharge its own duties. 

The template Interface Agreement we provided meant the Department could establish a contractual relationship with each contractor involved in the project which clearly defined each party's WHS responsibilities. This ensured there were no safety oversights during the project and dealt with issues such as site access, subcontractor engagement and induction processes.

Managing WHS risks associated with engagement of contractors by a developer client

Our client is heavily reliant on contractors to undertake a wide range of tasks including the clearing of land and construction of infrastructure at greenfield development sites. In addition, our client engages contractors at a heavily industrial site with long and short term tenants. Our client was concerned about the potential political and reputational damage inherent in the management of these contractors.

We advised our client on the WHS requirements of its contractors and its obligations in assessing them. We undertook due diligence of the selection process and then developed a system to classify contractors according to criteria such as their safety systems, qualifications, experience, and work safety history. We provided advice on the steps that were needed for contractors to meet the required WHS targets including for smaller contractors that did not have sophisticated safety systems.

As a result, our client has in place a robust system to assess the WHS risks of its contractors and tenants, and a means by which gaps can be addressed. This has enabled our client to protect its reputation.

WHS compliance assessment and training for a Government corporation

We assisted a water management corporation to manage WHS risks associated with the final phases of its dam project.

We had been assisting our client deal with the regulator in relation to the issuance of improvement notices, and responding to a number of workplace incidents. On the back of these issues, we:

  • comprehensively reviewed the client's WHS framework for the project;
  • assessed the adequacy of the client's policies, procedures and other WHS documents against the range of duties arising under the WHS Act, its Regulations and Codes of Practice, and made recommendations to address any shortfalls; and
  • assisted our client to understand any changes to those policies and procedures that would ensure compliance with the WHS Act. 

Our advice assisted our client to ensure it understood the extent of its obligations for ensuring the health and safety of all people on the worksite, including a large number of contractors, and the respective obligations of the joint venture partners that commissioned the project. We also provided advice to senior management in relation to the adequacy of reporting processes, to ensure that officers were able to discharge their personal WHS duties.   

Moreover, the advice assisted our client to ensure the project was completed with minimal disruption following a time where there was a focus on safety at the worksite. We have continued to provide our client's senior management with training in relation to their WHS duties, and the client's WHS duties more generally.

Comprehensive incident management minimises disruption to mining client

We acted for client in relation to the explosion of a drilling rig at one of its coal mining sites, which resulted in serious injuries to a contractor employee. 

We were briefed immediately following the incident which meant we were able to co-ordinate the notifications to the regulator, lead the internal investigation which involved briefing third-party experts and managing the interface with the mining regulator. 

We took a proactive approach to the investigation commenced by the mining regulator and ensured it was provided with ongoing information as the investigation developed. It was for this reason the regulator was content to allow our client to lead the investigation, rather than doing so itself. This meant the disruption to the business was minimised and assisted our client to further its relationship with the regulator. Our client was not prosecuted as a result of the incident.

Early engagement with regulator avoids prosecution for construction client

We were engaged by an insurance client to act for one of its insureds following a serious fall from heights incident, resulting in grievous bodily harm to a worker. We were engaged to provide advice in the days following the incident which meant we were able to work with the insured to prepare for the regulator's investigation, accompany the regulator during its site attendances and manage the communication strategy to the broader community.

As a result of our early involvement, we were able to negotiate an enforceable undertaking with the regulator (within the insurance framework) prior to any enforcement action being taken. 

This meant there was no prosecution commenced and that funds that would have otherwise been spent on managing an ongoing regulator's investigation and potentially responding to a complaint and summons was directed to safety improvements.