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Comcare inspections

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Inspections are one part of Comcare’s regulatory activities. They aim to maintain and develop safe and healthy workplaces and compliance with work health and safety legislation.


Inspections explained

An inspection is a regulatory activity that Comcare inspectors undertake to monitor compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). An inspection may involve a site visit or be a desktop activity.

Purpose

Inspections are designed to improve health and safety outcomes by:

  • monitoring compliance with the WHS Act
  • helping duty holders achieve compliance with their legislative obligations
  • assisting in the resolution of work health and safety issues at workplaces
  • improving the health, wellbeing and safety of workers
  • improving identification of hazards and capability in risk control
  • encouraging workplaces to identify, share and implement better practices.

When inspections occur

There are several triggers which result in a workplace inspection. These are:

  • to assist with resolving a work health and safety issue
  • to respond to an incident, complaint or allegation
  • as part of a planned program.

See WHS activities and outcomes for a yearly report on Comcare’s regulatory activity including inspections.

The role and powers of inspectors

How an inspector can benefit you

Inspectors can be a valuable source of information regarding work health and safety issues and can assist you to identify potential corrective actions.

Inspectors may be able to provide contacts across the Comcare scheme who are willing to share how they have resolved a particular work health and safety issue in their organisation.

Where inspectors identify a breach of the WHS Act, they can provide information about corrective actions to assist you to achieve compliance. An inspector will be working with you to achieve a safety outcome in the first instance, in accordance with Comcare’s compliance and enforcement framework.

Inspector functions and powers

Inspectors have a variety of powers and functions available to them under the WHS Act.

These include to:

  • provide information and advice about compliance with the WHS Act
  • assist in resolving work health and safety issues at the workplace
  • enter a workplace
  • require you to provide documents and information
  • require you to answer their questions, even where the answers may incriminate you (however not when the information is subject to legal professional privilege)
  • seize evidence and documents
  • take statements
  • make measurements and recordings, and conduct tests, at your workplace
  • issue notices to achieve compliance with the WHS Act
  • review disputed provisional improvement notices
  • assist in resolving issues related to health and safety representatives (HSRs)
  • assist in resolving issues related to entry to a workplace by a WHS entry permit holder or a person assisting a HSR
  • monitor compliance with the WHS Act, and require compliance through issuing notices
  • investigate contraventions of the WHS Act and assist in the prosecution of offences and achieving justice outcomes in line with Comcare’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy (PDF, 158.2 KB) where there are appropriate circumstances.

Comcare provides regulatory guides about inspector powers.

Enforcement options

Inspectors can use a number of different tools to enforce compliance.

Tools include:

  • non disturbance notices—to preserve or prevent disturbance to a particular site
  • improvement notices—to require a person to remedy or prevent a contravention of the WHS Act
  • prohibition notices—to stop an activity that may present or is presenting an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard that would result in a serious risk to the health or safety of a person.

A notice will clearly explain why the inspector has issued the notice and how to have the notice lifted. The issuing Inspector is available for any questions or concerns you may have regarding the notice.

An inspection may be escalated to an investigation. Our Compliance and Enforcement Policy (PDF, 158.2 KB) explains the circumstances where an escalation may occur.

Some work health and safety decisions, such as the decision to issue an improvement notice, are reviewable. See Apply to review a work health and safety decision for more information and the application process.

When an inspector calls

How to identify a Comcare inspector

A Comcare inspector will always introduce themself to you as an inspector when carrying out their duties.

They always have identification with them and will provide it for you to view upon request.

What to expect when an inspector visits your workplace

When an inspector visits your workplace, they will advise you of the purpose of their visit. While most inspections will have been pre-arranged and the reasons explained, inspectors may also choose to undertake unannounced site visits.

Inspectors may want to:

  • tour and inspect the workplace
  • speak to workers and/or key managers
  • speak to health and safety representatives (HSRs) or union representatives
  • review your risk register, asbestos register or other health and safety documentation
  • speak to you about identified hazards and the controls you have in place to minimise risk.

When an inspector chooses to use any of their powers under the WHS Act, while they cannot give you legal advice, they will inform you generally of your legal rights and obligations.

What to expect when an inspector compels information or documents from you

The inspector must advise you that:

  • they are an inspector
  • failure to provide an answer to their questions, without reasonable excuse, constitutes an offence under the WHS Act
  • it is not a reasonable excuse to refuse to answer a question or provide documents on the grounds of self-incrimination
  • you do not have to disclose information or documents subject to legal professional privilege
  • the information or documents you provide cannot be used in criminal or civil proceedings against you as an individual.

Inspectors may record an interview by taking notes, taking a typed statement, or using an audio or video recorder. When an inspector uses an audio or video recorder to record an interview or statement, they will provide you with a copy of the recording at a time determined by the inspector.

What happens to the information you provide

Information gathered by inspectors is governed by laws on how it is used, disclosed and stored.

If you request anonymity, the inspector will talk with you about confidentiality issues as they arise and will advise you if they are unable to maintain your request for confidentially, such as when there is an overriding safety concern or legal obligation.

Who receives the inspector's report

Inspectors will normally produce an inspector report at the conclusion of an inspection.

This report summarises the activities undertaken, any powers used, and the safety outcomes intended to be achieved.

Inspectors will only issue the report to the persons conducting the businesses or undertakings (PCBUs) that the report is about.

Feedback on inspection activities

Comcare inspectors are expected to comply with legislated obligations and Comcare operational procedures. They are also expected to be professional, objective and consistent when carrying out their responsibilities.

If you have any concerns regarding an inspector using their powers, speak with the inspector or ask them for the contact details of their manager. You may also provide feedback to Comcare.

Training

We provide training through our learning management system called Comcare LMS. One presentation we offer is about the work of Comcare inspectors.

To access our training, you first need to create an account in Comcare LMS (see the steps to create an account). Then, select the training course link and login with your email and password.

Live learning (instructor led)
Mode: Presentation
Cost: Free

For more information about the courses we offer, see Training and learning.


More information

Policy

For more information, see Comcare’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy (PDF, 158.2 KB).

Regulatory guides

We provide regulatory guides relating to inspector functions, decisions and compliance tools.

Inspector functions and powers

Part 9 of the WHS Act give functions and powers to inspectors who have been appointed by Comcare.

Inspector assistance and decisions

Inspectors are given specific functions under part 5 of the WHS Act, which relate to the interactions of ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBUs), health and safety representatives (HSR), health and safety committees, work groups and workers.

In certain situations where parties are unable to agree on an issue, part 5 allows them to ask Comcare to appoint an inspector to assist them to resolve the issue or to decide a matter for them.

Compliance tools

Comcare undertakes a range of compliance and enforcement activities under the WHS Act to promote compliance or to deter or respond to non-compliance. These activities may or may not involve the use of compliance tools.

Compliance tools are specific measures that Comcare can use to achieve an outcome in relation to compliance. Some compliance tools are established by specific legislative provisions.

Compliance tools include notices, WHS undertakings and prosecutions.

Page last reviewed: 22 March 2021
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Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 23 Sep 2021

https://www.comcare.gov.au/scheme-legislation/whs-act/comcare-inspections