You’ve just spotted your staff wearing canvas shoes on the factory floor – a clear breach of your workplace health and safety policy. You’ve seen heavy objects fall off the conveyor belt and you know someone could be seriously injured if they’re not wearing the correct footwear.  

Employees should know how serious their employer is about work health and safety (WHS) in the workplace. They should also know that breaching these policies come with severe consequences, like disciplinary action and even dismissal.

Employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring WHS practices are understood in the workplace, but it’s the employee who is responsible for following them in their day-to-day.

What happens when an employee breaches your WHS policy?

A breach of WHS can come in all shapes and sizes, and severity! An employee may forget to turn off the stove in the work kitchen, or not wear their hardhat on the job. These seemingly small breaches can easily result in serious injury, and possibly an expensive workers compensation claim.
 
It can be difficult to discipline, or ultimately dismiss an employee for a WHS breach, especially without clear evidence you’ve made every effort to ensure they safety.
 
If you’re unsure, ask yourself these six questions set out by the Fair Work Commission to determine whether discipline is appropriate:
 
  1. Did the employee know what was required of them under your WHS policies?

  2. Did they know a breach could result in discipline or dismissal?

  3. Had they been warned their non-compliance could result in dismissal?

  4. Was there a pattern of non-compliance without improvement?

  5. Did the employee have a fair chance to respond to your claim or breach?

  6. And did they fail to give an adequate response to the allegation?  

In many cases, additional safety training and positive reinforcement from management are all it takes to change employee WHS behaviour.
A breach of WHS can come in all shapes and sizes, and severity!