Workplace Health and Safety obligations

Agencies have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of interpreters providing services, including providing adequate breaks and providing orientation for interpreters conducting on-site interpreting assignments.

Workplace Health and Safety obligations

Workplace Health and Safety

As a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ under Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, your agency has a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of interpreters providing services for you.

Interpreting can be very demanding, so you should provide interpreters with reasonable short breaks so that they can get a drink, go to the bathroom, rest and refresh their focus. This is particularly important for complex or lengthy jobs, such as phone interpreting jobs of more than 60 minutes duration or on-site jobs longer than 90 minutes. TIS National also strongly recommends that interpreters have a more substantial break (at least 30 minutes) after five hours of interpreting wherever possible.

In addition to meeting duty of care obligations, adequate breaks also help ensure optimal interpreting outcomes for you and your non-English speaking clients. There is no reduction in charges (or in interpreter payment) for any breaks you provide to an interpreter. Breaks are paid time, with allowance for breaks built into our charging structure for longer jobs.

TIS National recommends that you discuss arrangements for breaks with your interpreter at the start of each interpreting job. We also encourage you to include information on appropriate breaks for interpreters in any training you provide to your staff about working with interpreters.

When our interpreters perform on-site interpreting for you, they are subject to the WHS policies and procedures of your workplace.

The best way to help minimise risks to interpreters is to factor them into your WHS planning, such as providing them with a WHS orientation when they arrive at the site.

Orientation for interpreters may cover topics such as:

  • the nature of the operations of your business and the associated hazards and risks
  • appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety
  • processes for receiving information about incidents, hazards and risks in your workplace.

We inform our interpreters about their obligation to attend WHS orientations for on-site assignments when requested. If an incident occurs involving an interpreter while performing an on-site assignment in your workplace, please immediately telephone the TIS National Interpreter Liaison team on 1300 132 621 to inform us of the incident. We ask that you then follow this up with a written incident report, emailed to