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Managing Risks in Workplace Health and Safety

The duty imposed on employers to ensure work health and safety for employees is imposed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2012(SA) (‘the Act’) and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) (‘the Regulations’). This duty includes the duty to manage risks which may arise in the workplace.

What is the duty to ‘Manage Risk’?

Under this obligation an employer is required to eliminate risks to health and safety or, where this is not reasonably practicable, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

An assessment of what is reasonable requires consideration of relevant matters, such as:

  • the likelihood of the risk or hazard occurring,
  • the degree of harmthat might result from the risk or hazard,
  • relevant knowledgeabout the hazard or risk and ways of eliminating or reducing it,
  • the availability and suitability of eliminating or minimising the risk; and
  • the cost associated with this process.

If the cost of eliminating or reducing the risk is grossly disproportionate to the risk itself, making it impractical to do so, the employer will not be not be liable for inaction.


In a practical sense, this requires an employer to investigate the risk and make a decision based on relevant factors as to how that risk should be dealt with. It may be that the risk cannot be dealt with reasonably, in which case, liability will not arise. However, when the risk can be attended to it must be dealt with to a reasonable extent.

Penalties for Failing to Manage Risks

The penalties for failing to abide by the duty to manage risks depend on the seriousness of the failure.

The penalty for an individual (such as a sole trader) can range between $50,000 to $300,000 or 5 years imprisonment (or both) in the most serious of cases.

For a  body corporate the financial penalty increases significantly and companies can be subject to penalties between $500,000 and $3,000,000.

To ensure that your company is complying with the relevant work health and safety legislation, or to discuss any aspect of business or personal law contact Julia Adlem or Alisha Senior at Adelaide Legal on (08) 8410 9494.


Julia Adlem

Associate Lawyer