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Employers and operators

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Employers and operators under the Seacare scheme have duties in relation to workers’ compensation and to ensure the health and safety of employees and others at the workplace.


Key duties under the Seafarers Act

As an employer or operator, you should be aware of your key duties under the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Seafarers Act).

Arrange and renew insurance

The Seacare compensation scheme is supported by private sector insurance companies that write workers’ compensation insurance policies for employers in the scheme.

Insurance requirements

Employers who come under the Seafarers Act must hold appropriate workers’ compensation insurance at all times.

Employers operating under the Act must have a policy of insurance or indemnity from an authorised insurer.

Employers must:

  • be a member of a protection and indemnity association that is approved in writing by the Seacare Authority and is a member of the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Associations, or
  • be a member of an employer’s mutual indemnity association that is approved in writing by the Seacare Authority—so they are insured or indemnified for the full amount of the employer’s liability under the Seafarers Act to all employees working for them.

Employers may take out policies that make them liable for an amount below the agreed excess.

Authorised insurers

An authorised insurer is the company with which the employer has taken out a workers’ compensation insurance policy for its employees.

The insurer must be a:

  • general insurer or Lloyds underwriter under the Insurance Act 1973, or
  • state insurer.

See a list of authorised insurers providing Seafarers Act indemnity. Authorised insurers are also available on the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority website.

Pay the Seafarers Safety Net Fund levy

All employers who employ or engage employees on prescribed ships that are subject to the Seafarers Act are required to pay the Seafarers Safety Net Fund levy each quarter, at a rate determined by the Minister.

This levy must be paid to the Seacare Authority within 14 days of the first day of each quarter. We issue a notice to employers prior to the levy falling due each quarter.

See Safety Net Fund and levy for more details on the fund and payment of the levy.

Manage claims, rehabilitation and return to work processes

As an employer, you are the central player in both the claims management process and the rehabilitation and return to work process, in accordance with the Seafarers Act.

Duties include to:

  • make claims forms available
  • work with your insurer
  • determine claims made by employees
  • follow the reconsideration process
  • manage claims
  • arrange an assessment of capacity
  • select an approved rehabilitation provider
  • arrange a rehabilitation program
  • support a positive return to work plan.

See Claims and rehabilitation information for employers for more information about these duties and responsibilities.

Meet employer reporting requirements

Employers and operators covered by the Seacare scheme have a range of statutory reporting requirements and must provide certain information to the Seacare Authority, in accordance with the Seafarers Act. Penalties apply for non-compliance.

Reporting includes:

  • Employee and Ship Details Survey reports
  • Workers' compensation insurance arrangements
  • Claims reporting
  • Claims determination reporting
  • Claim Update reports
  • Berths and Levy Return reporting.

See Employer reporting obligations for more information about how to report and when.

Key duties under the OHS(MI) Act

Report incidents

Operators covered by the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (OHS(MI) Act) must notify the Seacare OHS inspectorate, which is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), of an incident or dangerous occurrence.

Reporting involves a two-step process:

  1. Submit an incident alert within 4 hours of becoming aware of the incident, and
  2. Submit an incident report within 72 hours of becoming aware of the incident.

Employers and operators must also ensure that all employees are aware of their responsibility to:

  • report incidents through the internal policies and procedures
  • protect an incident site until an inspector attends the site or advises otherwise.

See Responding to an incident and What are my reporting obligations for more information.

The authority requiring notification of and reporting on accidents and dangerous occurrences is provided by section 106 of the OHS(MI) Act and regulations 11 to 13 of the OHS(MI) Regulations.

Fulfill duties to protect employee health and safety

Under the OHS(MI) Act, an employer or operator of a prescribed ship or prescribed unit must take all reasonable steps to protect the health and safety at work of employees and others under your care.

This duty includes ensuring:

  • the working environment is properly equipped and maintained to provide a safe and healthy working environment for everyone
  • employees have a safe way of getting to and from their workplace
  • reasonable facilities are provided for all employees’ welfare at work
  • shipboard working arrangements are safe and do not risk health
  • appropriate action is taken to monitor employee health, maintain records and provide appropriate medical and first aid services
  • the necessary information, instruction and training are provided to ensure job safety
  • all on board are properly supervised as appropriate.

Persons included under duties relating to occupational health and safety

The duties relating to occupational health and safety for an operator include:

  • employees
  • contractors
  • third parties.

Duties relating to contractors

When an employer or operator of a prescribed ship or prescribed unit contracts other people or businesses to do work, such as contracting ship workers, cleaning or maintenance, they will usually have the same obligations to the contractors as they do to their employees.

There may be reduced responsibility if the employer or operator

  • does not have control over the contractor or their work, or
  • would not be expected to have control over the contractor or their work.

Respond to provisional improvement notices (PINs)

As an employer or operator, you must ensure that the people in command of your ship/s are aware of their obligations and responsibilities.

One of these responsibilities relates to provisional improvement notices, referred to as PINs, that are issued by health and safety representatives (HSRs).

Once a person in command has received a PIN, they must:

  • provide a copy of the PIN to the owner of the workplace, plant, substance or thing to which the PIN relates
  • provide a copy of the PIN to the contractor, if the PIN relates to a contravention of the OHS(MI) Act or Regulations by a contractor
  • notify each employee affected by the issue of the PIN
  • ensure a copy of the PIN is displayed in a prominent place at, or near, each workplace subject to that PIN until the PIN ceases to have effect
  • to the extent possible, comply with the PIN
  • take reasonable steps to inform the health and safety representative (HSR) who issued the PIN of the action taken to comply with the PIN.

If the HSR and the person in command disagree on how and when a problem may be fixed, the person in command may ask for advice from an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) inspector.

If the ship is in an Australian port, or at sea heading for an Australian port, the person in command would generally contact the local AMSA office. In other circumstances, the person in command could contact either the AMSA office in the ship’s home port or AMSA’s head office in Canberra.

Once the person in command takes this step, the operation of the PIN is suspended. AMSA will arrange for an inspector to investigate the problem as soon as practicable and decide on an appropriate course of action.

Contact AMSA by email amsaconnect@amsa.gov.au or phone 1800 627 484.

In an emergency, dial 000 or 112 (satellite phone).

Meet consultation requirements

Consultation is also a legal requirement under the OHS (MI) Act and an essential part of managing health and safety risks.

A safe and healthy workplace is more easily achieved when workers at all levels within the business talk to each other about potential problems and work together to find solutions.

When consultation is required

The OHS (MI) Act identifies specific matters that trigger the need for consultation. These include:

  • request to establish or vary designated work groups
  • request to establish a health and safety or workers
  • developing health and safety policy.

It may also be useful to consult workers about matters that are not listed above, for example when conducting investigations into incidents or ‘near misses’.

How to foster communication and consultation

As an employer or operator, you should promote and foster open lines of communication and consultation about health and safety across the organisation. This can be achieved by:

  • creating and nurturing joint partnerships with:
    • workplace work groups and representatives
    • health and safety representatives
    • other relevant ships and companies
  • ensuring effective consultation processes are built into the business through its systems, policies and procedures
  • engaging with senior managers and employees by being visible and open to feedback and ideas.

Support health and safety representatives (HSRs) to perform their role

As an operator, you must ensure that health and safety representatives (HSRs) can exercise their powers and perform their functions as a HSR.

Support HSRs to perform their functions

An operator’s responsibilities to a HSR include to:

  • provide time off work, without loss of pay or other entitlements, to undertake OHS training or to exercise their powers
  • provide facilities necessary to enable the HSR to exercise their powers
  • permit the HSR to inspect the workplace and to accompany an inspector in any investigation
  • permit the HSR to be present at an interview about health and safety between employees in their designated work group (DWG) and an inspector or the operator, the person in command or any other person representing the operator, and
  • on request, provide the HSR with access to any information under your control relating to risks to health and safety (unless legal restrictions apply).

HSR listing

Employers and operators are required to:

  • have an up-to-date list of HSRs for each designated work group
  • ensure that the list is at all reasonable times available for inspection by employees, involved unions and inspectors.

Participate in health and safety committees

Under the OHS(MI) Act, a health and safety committee (HSC) must be established on a prescribed ship or prescribed unit if:

  • there are employees in one or more designated work groups, and
  • the committee has been requested by the HSR, by one of the designated work groups or an involved union.

Where one is established, the operator is responsible for participating in and supporting the committee.

A health and safety committee would generally include the HSRs on board and the person in command of the vessel representing management. The committee can be a way for employees to provide feedback to whoever is in command of the vessel and the ship operator.

A health and safety committee must meet every three months and is responsible for broader occupational health and safety issues, such as:

  • assisting the operator to develop, implement and review measures to protect the health and safety at work of employees
  • facilitating cooperation between the operator and employees in relation to OHS matters
  • assisting the operator to share OHS information with employees, and
  • undertaking other functions as agreed between the operator and the committee.

Manage risk in the workplace

Efficiently managing occupational health and safety risks in the workplace involves:

Governance

As an employer or operator, you should develop and embed organisational occupational health and safety policies and procedures that clearly define and articulate:

  • roles and responsibilities in the workplace relating to occupational health and safety
  • consultation and communication processes and practices
  • safe work practices and expectations
  • work health and safety reporting requirements.

Prevention

The first step to achieving a culture with a focus on prevention is to ensure that there is commitment to compliance with occupational health and safety legislation. This includes identifying and eliminating hazards and the risks they pose before they enter the workplace.

Employees should be encouraged to identify and report hazards and risks as well as unsafe work practices or work environments.

Response

If a health and safety incident occurs, the employer or operator must use a reasonably practicable approach to remove the hazard that caused it, and implement changes to stop it from happening again.

Information relating to incident investigation, notification requirements, emergency preparedness and response (including first aid) should be included in any relevant policies and procedures and communicated effectively to all workers.

See Risks and hazards in the maritime industry for more information about common risks.

Page last reviewed: 19 April 2021
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GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.seacare.gov.au

Date printed 09 Dec 2021

https://www.seacare.gov.au/roles/employers-and-operators