Protect Your Practice

You are responsible for managing work health and safety risks within your practice. As the practice manager, you must consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who have a work health or safety duty in relation to the same matter, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Safe Work Australia

According to Safe Work Australia, managing work health and safety risks in the workplace involves four steps (see figure below – source: Safe Work Australia):

  1. Identifying hazard—finding out what could cause harm
  2. Assessing risks (if necessary)—understanding the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard,      
  3. How serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening
    Controlling risks—implementing the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  4. Reviewing control measures—ensuring control measures are working as planned.





Control measures must be selected to eliminate the risk, so far as is reasonably practicable. If elimination is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This will equally apply to both internal and external environments.

Depending on your practice location, patient demographics and services provided, the levels of security will vary.

Principles for all areas

  • Is the area free of all current and potential hazards?
  • If the hazard is identified remove the hazard or make it safe; use appropriate staff or tradespeople as required.
  • Ensure an ambient temperature is maintained throughout the practice.
  • Can people exit the immediate area if required due to an emergency?
  • Ensure an emergency plan* is in place, exits marked and that staff are aware of the plan.
  • *An emergency plan is a written set of instructions that outline what workers and others at the workplace should do in an emergency.
  • As the practice manager, you (or the nominated safety officer) should review all areas of the practice on a regular basis to ensure a safe environment.
  • Is your practice compliant with the relevant legislation: federal, state or local council? At times the most onerous can be local council.
  • Ensure there is appropriate equipment, furniture, seating and computer viewing as required allowing staff/doctors to perform their duties required.
  • Staff using computers and viewing monitors should have a short break on a regular basis.
  • Ensure there are internal and back-to-base monitored alarm systems throughout the practice.
  • Keep appropriate disposal bins in rooms: sharps, contaminated waste and general waste.
  • Best practice for staff working outside normal hours is to have at least two members of staff onsite at all practicable times.
  • Include WHS in the induction program for the practice.
  • Keep records of any WHS training, issues and outcomes.

Waiting room

  • Reception staff are able to visually monitor the waiting room. (You may require a mirror and/or video monitoring.)
  • Provide a variety of seating.
  • Use child safety plugs for power points that are not in use.
  • Provide appropriate access for staff, patients and visitors.

Reception area

  • Establish an appropriate distance or barrier between staff and patients.
  • Be aware of items that could be used as weapons – e.g. glass vase, picture frame.

Consultation rooms

  • The ideal layout allows the doctor to exit the room directly without having to move across a patient.

Treatment rooms

  • Limited access to dangerous drugs, instruments, etc. to staff only.
  • Provide ambulance entry if building structure allows.

Staff room

  • Provide an appropriate area for staff rest/meal breaks.


  • Check at opening and closing of a day, for both supplies and patients.
  • Do you require sharps containers or similar in the toilet area?

Common areas (accessible to the general public)

  • Keep clear and free of potentially dangerous items.

Next page

Work Health and Safety (WHS) – External
  • Safe Work Australia
  • Principles for all areas
  • Grounds
  • Building

This publication is proudly brought to you by Avant Mutual Group. The content was authored by Brett McPherson, reviewed by Colleen Sullivan and Avant Mutual Group.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2014.

IMPORTANT: Professional indemnity insurance products and Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Policy are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. The information provided here is general advice only. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us. For full details including the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply, please read and consider the policy wording and PDS, which is available at or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability, public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance, and workers compensation and you should contact your insurance broker for more information. Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Any advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the product is appropriate for you before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us.