The Safety Dilemma for NFPs

This is the first in a series of articles by RAISE-DM to help smaller organisations understand their WHS obligations. For further information please contact Amanda Karpeles on LinkedIn or email How NFPs can ensure staff are safe when working away, entering client homes, or travelling at irregular hours Australian charities and other not-for-profits have a […]

How NFPs can ensure staff are safe when working away, entering client homes, or travelling at irregular hours

Australian charities and other not-for-profits have a strong history of helping vulnerable and disadvantaged people. Their biggest challenge is ensuring their staff are safe when they work away, enter client homes and travel at irregular hours. According to Amanda Karpeles, a lawyer with 20 years legal experience in workplace safety, a degree in psychology, a Masters in OHS and the CEO of RAISE-DM;

 ‘To stay ahead NFPs are required to be innovative to ensure the effectiveness of every dollar they spend.  Many larger businesses can learn from their strategies.’

However with their varied practices and remote activity their workers are by the virtue of the nature of their work at increased risks of injuries. Safety poses a particular dilemma for most NFPs. Injury statistics reveal injury levels have risen 20% between 2003-2014 in the same period injuries in manufacturing have decreased 49%.  In 2014/15, disproportionally, 16% of all serious claims were in the Healthcare and social assistance industry.

While safety for volunteers and staff is becoming more structured and essential services are being delivered more effectively, there is still much work to be done while they continue suffer some of the highest incident rates in Australia.

Depending upon their structures NFPs may be subject to multiple layers of controls and regulations, this might be Commonwealth or State based regulations and Work Health and Safety laws.

When it comes to safety, whether they are companies,  incorporated associations or have other structures – key decision makers (persons who control a business or undertaking) owe a duty of care to all workers (regardless as to whether they are employed by them or not.

Common legal duties for any Board of Directors

There are many common duties that need to be understood by any board, directors and other personnel who hold the purse strings.

Exercise proactive due diligence

They must exercise due diligence to ensure they meet their WHS obligations. Not only must they undertake an assessment of risk in their financial and corporate strategies but also be proactive in the key area of work health and safety. Amanda Karpeles, lawyer and CEO of RAISE-DM reinforces this responsibility;

 ‘The duty requires officers to be proactive in ensuring that the corporation, club or association complies with its duty.’

A work health and safety inspector may, during a routine audit or inspection, ask a corporate director to produce evidence that the director is meeting his or her due diligence requirements. If satisfactory evidence is not produced, the inspector may issue the director with an improvement notice. If the failure to demonstrate due diligence is serious, reckless or flagrant, the inspector might commence prosecution proceedings against the director.

This can be met by:

  • Acquiring up-to-date knowledge of the Work Health & Safety Act 2011, regulations and codes of practice
  • Investigating current industry issues through conferences, seminars, information and awareness sessions, industry groups, newsletters
  • Acquiring up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety management principles and practices
  • Ensuring that work health and safety matters are considered at each corporation, club or association board meeting.

Ensuring that appropriate resources and processes are used to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety

This can be met by:

  • Establishing/maintaining safe methods of work
  • Implementing a safety management system
  • Delivering group specific safety content to members where ever they are

Establishing and maintaining compliance processes

This can be met by:

  • Undertaking a legal compliance audit of policies, procedures and practices
  • Testing policies, procedures and practices to verify compliance with safety management planning.
  • Ensuring that their supervisors and workers have ready access to information that will help them to avoid risks and hazards in the workplace.

For further information on how RAISE (Rapid Access to Information on Safety in Emergencies) can help your organisation meet its legal obligations and look after your employees, please contact me on LinkedIn or email