The New South Wales Workplace Health & Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) lays down the general requirements for health, safety and welfare which must be met in all places of work in New South Wales. The Act covers self-employed people as well as employees and employers.

Safety is important

Most other states in Australia have similar pieces of legislation in place or have them in the planning. For the purpose of this article, we shall keep to the NSW WHS Act.

In general, the WHS Act requires employers to make available the appropriate tools and equipment for the employee to adequately perform his/her job in a safe manner. Employees must do their part by using equipment provided by employers correctly.

To comply with the WHS Act, employers and employees are required to assess all aspects of their job in order to remove or reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. Take an extra moment during the assessment process to consider the handedness of the employee.

A left-handed employee’s needs must be addressed in order to comply with the WHS Act.

Employers should ensure that a left-handed employee’s desk or workstation is correctly designed and oriented for left-handed use. Placement of office equipment such as the telephone and computer in the correct relation to each other is important to efficient and effective work. Drawer and filing cabinet locations are also important considerations to be made.

Employers must source and provide the appropriate equipment for their employees in particular tasks. As examples:

  • an office worker or shop assistant may require left-handed scissors, stationery items or computer keyboards;
  • a tiler may need a left-handed tiling trowel;
  • a horticulturist may need left-handed secateurs;
  • a chef may need left-handed knives, can openers or ladles;
  • a waiter may need a left-handed corkscrew;
  • and so on.

Left-handed employees using some types of standard equipment may be subject to injury as they force the use of their less-capable hand to do the task, which may either manifest itself as an acute injury or strain or as an OOS injury.

Institutions responsible for training students in career and life skills (eg. universities, TAFE and community colleges) must also ensure their students have access to the correct equipment, either provided by the institution or the student. Students should be advised on where they can obtain the correct equipment for their course if they are required to buy their own. Students in classes such as hairdressing, dressmaking, horticulture, nursing, cooking, and more, all require scissors or tools that can be unique for the left-handed student.

High schools need to be aware of the need to provide equipment for their left-handed students for subjects such as computing studies, technical drawing, food technology, design & technology, textiles & design, etc.

Primary schools should also ensure that left-handed students have access to the basics in each classroom and library: scissors and pencil sharpeners. Not only does it ensure compliance with the Act, it helps build the self-esteem of the child as they accomplish some of the simple tasks more easily (see the Teacher’s Section).

Help and advice is available by contacting Lefty’s.