News & Insights

Health & safety in the workplace for recruitment agencies

Published 26 September 2016

Healthy and safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility. But did you know that recruitment professionals and labour hire agencies have particular obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011?

Workplace health and safety (WHS) duties apply to:

  • Labour hire agencies
  • Group training organisations
  • Any employers who provide workers to client companies

If you’re a direct employer of on-hired workers you have a responsibility to arrange placements that do not expose workers to health and safety risks. Furthermore, you have a legal duty to actively ensure that a workplace (its premises and its operations) is safe before employees are placed.

How to manage health and safety in the workplace

Making sure that a workplace is safe can be challenging, especially if you don’t have direct control over the premises or its operations.

But as an employer of on-hired workers, you still need to take steps to ensure that a workplace is safe. Your clients or ‘host organisations’ can’t fulfil your WHS duties on your behalf.

So before you sign off on a placement, you need to assess and control WHS risks. Start by:

  • Gathering information about your client, their claims record and their hazard controls;
  • Visiting the worksite and identifying potential hazards;
  • Obtaining details about the job and the duties to be carried out by your employees, including any plant or equipment that will be used and materials they’ll be exposed to;
  • Conducting a job safety analysis (JSA) to document hazards and controls;
  • Making sure your employees are suited for the job, and that they have the right skills, competency and qualifications.

Once you’ve carried out initial assessments, it’s your responsibility to ensure action is taken to control WHS risks.

  • Outline the hazards that need to be controlled
  • Agree on a timeframe to ensure that action is promptly taken
  • Document and sign off on hazard control measures
  • Provide an induction for your employees, so they’re aware of hazards and how to avoid them
  • Conduct ‘monitoring’ inspections to ensure proper controls are being implemented

The ITCRA Shop has a range of WHS Policy and Procedures to help develop compliance processes and a WHS management system. These can help you ensure proper health and safety in the workplace for on-hired employees.

For more guidance, you should contact the appropriate WHS regulator in your State. A list of regulators can be found here, on the Australian Human Resources Institute website.

Do recruitment agencies have WHS duties too?

Recruitment agencies that act as intermediaries between workers and employers don’t have the same duties as labour hire firms, as they’re typically not direct employers.

However, recruitment agencies are required to comply with relevant Commonwealth, state and territory statutory obligations and the Fair Work Act 2009. This is in addition to compliance with professional codes of conduct, such as the RCSA Code for Professional Conduct and the ITCRA Code of Conduct.

When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, recruitment agencies are obligated to:

  • Obtain full and accurate information about a job position, including work conditions and nature of the work to be undertaken
  • Ensure job advertisements accurately describe the position(s), expected duties and other relevant information
  • Present work seekers who have the right level of skill, knowledge, experience and training for a job

Failure to perform the necessary interviews, background checks and screening can result in a candidate being placed in a position they’re not suited for. This is not good for your clients, and can put the candidate at risk.

The bottom line

Ensuring proper health and safety in the workplace is the responsibility of employers, and this includes labour hire firms who provide on-hired staff to clients. But other recruitment agencies have a role to play in managing WHS risks too.


  • Take proper action to systematically identify, assess and control WHS risks before placing an employee
  • Understand the inherent requirements of job duties  and only place employees or candidates who have the appropriate skills, knowledge and training
  • Focus on ensuring your business has WHS Management Systems that address all aspects of recruitment and placement of your employees
  • Perform the required background checks, including police checks and Working with Children checks
  • Understand what roles have required minimum qualifications and licenses, and check that these are verified and monitored
  • Conduct a proper induction into your organisation and host workplace upon placement
  • Contact a member of the Gallagher Workplace Risk Team if you need clarification or further assistance.

Contact our Workplace Risk team nowchevron-right

Further reading

Workplace risk

What are my obligations for protecting my business's workers?

Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective, and offer broad information about risk mitigation, loss control strategy and potential claim exposures. We have prepared this commentary and other news alerts for general information purposes only and the material is not intended to be, nor should it be interpreted as, legal or client-specific risk management advice. General insurance descriptions contained herein do not include complete insurance policy definitions, terms and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for coverage interpretation. The information may not include current governmental or insurance developments, is provided without knowledge of the individual recipient’s industry or specific business or coverage circumstances, and in no way reflects or promises to provide insurance coverage outcomes that only insurance carriers’ control.
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