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Silicosis; what you need to know, and do, to prevent it

There is good reason for the increased attention in the news over the past few months about the lung disease Silicosis. Not to be taken lightly, the disease has afflicted a number of people in a wide range of industries throughout Australia and around the world, and has even caused death.


Certainly, it is time for businesses in the mining, tunnelling, quarry and stonemasonry industry to get a clear understanding of their legislative obligations, as soon as possible. There are many practical actions you can take now to start working towards preventing this disease in your workplace.


A great starting point is to first learn about the nature of the disease, in terms of the hazards and risks, which predispose workers to the condition. It is important to understand that silicosis is entirely preventable.



What is silicosis?

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing tiny airborne particles of silica – also known as silica dust – into the lungs.


As the particles are inhaled they have the potential to penetrate and scar the lung tissue, causing it to become stiffer over time dependent on the duration of exposure and intensity of silica exposure (in terms of the workplace). This prevents the lungs from transferring oxygen into the blood stream properly and can lead to a number of health impacts, including irreversible lung damage, autoimmune disease and premature death.


Yet silicosis is a very varied disease, with different levels of risks and health complications. It can develop after a few weeks or even up to a few years after exposure to silica dust. Indeed, different types of silicosis – such as acute silicosis, accelerated silicosis, or chronic silicosis – all develop in different ways and exhibit different symptoms.



The risk of developing silicosis – with faster progression – increases as the intensity of exposure intensifies.



Additionally, it should be noted that there are a variety of other diseases and health conditions related to exposure to silica, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer and tuberculosis.


It is important to remember that there are often no symptoms at all in the early stages of the disease. So, it’s not wise to believe that simply because no one is coughing, everything is fine.


Over time, shortness of breath and coughing are signs of the disease, or another related disease as listed above, may be developing. This can continue to deteriorate over time, impacting a person’s ability to work, perform simple and low impact activities of daily living and to breath at all.



Who is at risk?

Silica dust finds its way into the lungs of workers in a variety of industries, as they perform many of the most common and everyday tasks related to those job roles.


Cutting, grinding, crushing, drilling, sawing, excavating, chiseling, paving, surfacing, polishing… if you use any of these types of words to describe what you or your workers do, it might be time to consider the risks associated with silica dust in your workplace.


You might think of those cutting artificial stones first following the media attention, or people working in mining. Certainly people in these industries are at risk. Yet, consider other industries that regularly perform these tasks that you may not think of initially – landscaping, building, stone masonry, or pottery and ceramics.


Clearly, the possibility of silica dust affecting the workforce can be widespread across more than one industry.



Where can silica be found?

Make no mistake, this issue is not only related to workers that cut composite stone for a living. Silica is found in all kinds of stone – natural or otherwise – concrete, mortar, brick, tilers and some plastics.


Despite what many people think, silica (SiO2) is actually a naturally occurring mineral. It is the main component of sand and 95% of natural rock. But it is also used to make a variety of artificial or engineered stone products.


The significant hazards and risks associated with manufacturing and/or working with artificial or engineered stone is the high crystalline silica content (i.e. greater than 85%).


The table below lists the common stone products and their typical crystalline silica content.

Reconstituted stone (eg, Caesarstone, Quantum Quartz, Smartstone)More than 90%
Sandstone70% to 90%
Granite25% to 40%
Slate20% to 40%
MarbleLess than 5 %

Source: WorkSafe Victoria



Practical controls you can put in place

Silicosis is an entirely preventable disease. As such, the controls and measures that each of us put in place in our workplaces have the potential to make significant positive impact to ensure that this disease does not continue to impact Australian morbidity and/or mortality rates in the workforce.


Prevention is key. Starting at the top of the hierarchy of controls, here is some practical advice:

SubstitutionSource composite stone with a lower percentage of crystalline silica
IsolationEnclose areas with dust generating tasks and implement suitable extraction systems that reduce dust exposure in the workplace. Use automation where possible.

Minimise the risk of exposure to generated silica dust, with local exhaust ventilation, water suppression (wet cutting), and/or using the correct tools which have inbuilt extraction and water generating capacity.

Should a risk still remain after implementing substitution, isolation, and engineering controls, consider;
AdministrationEnsure site rules, policies and procedures are suitable and appropriately implemented and managed in your workplace – consider shift rotations and effective training and induction processes.
PPEEnsure that all personal protective equipment is fit for purpose; respiratory equipment (minimum of a P2 efficiency half face respirator) with fit-test processes in place and work clothing that either does not collect dust, or is appropriately laundered or disposed of in the workplace.


Additionally, regular and thorough dust monitoring and worker health surveillance is an important and critical part of the process.


Action OHS Consulting Pty Ltd can support businesses to identify the degree of the problem in their workplace(s) and support the contextualisation of suitable and appropriate risk control measures to address the hazards and risks in the workplace.


Plus, WorkSafe Victoria has compiled some invaluable resources with industry-specific advice about Silicosis. Have a read: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/crystalline-silica


What are your legal responsibilities?

It goes without saying that as an employer, you must provide a safe workplace. What does this involve?

  • Appropriate pre-employment checks;
  • Health surveillance for workers with potential exposure to silica dust;
  • Worker consultation and communication;
  • Implementation, monitoring and review of suitable and appropriate risk controls in accordance with the hierarchy of controls and contextually relevant to the specific hazards and risks in the relevant workplace.




Victorian Amendments 

In Victoria, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 were amended 20 August 2019 to provide greater protection to Victorian employees working with engineered stone.

Engineered stone as manufactured composite stone that contains resins and has a crystalline silica content of at least 80 per cent. Engineered stone is commonly used as kitchen, bathroom and laundry bench tops.

These amendments now prohibit uncontrolled cutting, grinding and abrasive polishing of engineered stone with power tools.

What does this really mean?

It means that all controls must be properly designed, installed, used and maintained so they stay effective at reducing exposure to crystalline silica dust.

What are the controls you must be across?

  1. Under the amended regulations, it does not matter if you are an employer, self-employed person or person who manages or controls a workplace must ensure a power tool is not used to cut, grind or abrasively polish engineered stone, unless the tool:
  • has an integrated water delivery system that supplies a continuous feed of water (on-tool water suppression). Note: A hand held hose (or other hand held water delivery device) to direct water at the cutting point is NOT considered to be an ‘integrated water delivery system’. An integrated.
  • is fitted with on-tool extraction attached to a HEPA filtered dust class H vacuum cleaner (or similar system that captures the dust generated).

If these controls are not reasonably practicable, the use of power tools must be controlled through local exhaust ventilation (LEV).

  1. It also means that people cutting, grinding or polishing engineered stone with a power tool must be provided with respiratory protective equipment that:
  • is designed to protect the wearer from the inhalation of airborne contaminants entering the nose, mouth and lungs
  • complies with AS/NZS 1716 – Respiratory protective devices.

Air and health monitoring – yes or no?

Employers continue to have an obligation to carry out air monitoring if they are not sure if their employees are exposed to levels of silica dust that are above the exposure standard – i.e. 0.02 mg/m3 a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours.

With respect to this monitoring, employers should carry it out on a regular basis to ensure employee exposure is controlled.

Employers should carry out health monitoring in all workplaces there is exposure to airborne silica, unless air monitoring data shows that exposure is less than 0.02 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours.

If you don’t comply?

If you are not able to comply with the requirements for cutting, polishing or abrasively polishing engineered stone with power tools, the work cannot be done. Failing to control risks of dry processing may be a criminal offence.

If you require assistance

You should call us. As a Victorian-based Health and Safety Consulting business, we have the knowledge and capability to support you manage your regulatory needs. If you are a business with less than 60 workers, the OHS Essentials Program is something you should consider to ensure that you remain knowledgeable about silica and your legislative duty. Register your interest here.


8 big safety considerations for the Work Christmas Party

In most legal contexts, the work Christmas party is considered part of the work environment. Do you know what that means? Yes, the workplace continues to have a duty to provide a safe work environment.

Indeed, employers have been held liable under both the health and safety legislation, and the workers compensation legislation for incidents that have happened at work Christmas parties.

Whilst recognised as a time to celebrate, it is also a time your organisation should consider and manage the risks involved.

Contact Us to find out more about incidents that have resulted from workplace parties and events


Eight of the big ones to consider

Listed below are eight workplace health and safety considerations, which may help you to manage some of the more common health and safety hazards associated with your upcoming end of year celebration. 


1. Risk assess.

Involve your Health and Safety Representatives or Health and Safety Team in the event planning. Document a OHS risk assessment that identifies all foreseeable health and safety hazards and their defined control/s. Your safety risk assessment should consider an inspection of the site prior to the event. No Health and Safety Representatives or Health and Safety Team? That’s fine, just ensure that health and safety is a consideration of the team planning the event. How could people get hurt? Then, what can we do to prevent this.


2. Remind your employees of your expectations.

In the days prior to the Christmas event, remind staff (by email or memo) about the expected standards of behaviour and the disciplinary consequences that may take place. This should see you reinforce your workplace’s WHS policy, EEO policy and Code of Conduct to all attendees.


3. Be clear with when the event will finish.

Clearly set out defined start and finish times for the event and ensure that these are stated on the invitation. Realise that arranging or paying for drinks at an “after event” or “after party” will most likely extend your liability.


4. Travel.

How will workers travel to and from the function? Remember that in some jurisdictions, your workers compensation obligations do not just cover the employee’s time at work, but also extends to the journey to and from work – in this case the Christmas or end of year event.


5. Manage alcohol.

Needless to say, consumption of alcohol is likely to be a key health and safety risk. Consider restricting the amount of drinks or the strength of drinks that are available. Always have non-alcoholic alternatives available.


6. Provide food.

A meal or finger food has been shown to slow down alcohol consumption.


7. Supervise!

Someone should be nominated to monitor health and safety hazards such as wet floors, loose cables, behaviour, and manage incidents that may occur during the event. Is there a first aid officer, or emergency warden nominated? Supervision should include monitoring the controls identified within your pre-event health and safety risk assessment.


8. Debrief

In the days following the event, review the pre-event health and safety risk assessment and evaluate the effectiveness of the identified health and safety controls. Good documentation at this end will support your planning for next year. Fantastic!


What if an incident does occur?

Should an incident occur, it is important that you follow your workplaces incident reporting and investigation process. After managing the incident; consider, if possible, to avoid commencing the incident investigation until people are (sober and) back at the workplace.



How do you manage the Christmas rush?

Rushing to meet deadlines?

Whilst workers are most often trying to do the right thing by their employer, rushing to meet deadlines will often result in workers cutting corners, making bad judgements or ignoring the controls that have been established to provide a safe working environment.

Management and supervisors should ensure that safety is actively monitored and inspected during this period so that it remains a key focus – let your employees know that “safety” is not entitled to Christmas leave.


New or Novice Employees

If Christmas is a period where new employees are hired, or temps engaged to cope with your increased demand, how do you ensure that they are appropriately trained, before letting them loose into the hustle and bustle of Christmas?

Workers have told us that they are less likely to ask questions during this time as they “do not want to cause more work” for their colleagues – this unfortunately often leads to injury.

We have identified that some businesses introduce office based workers into the “shop-front” to support the Christmas rush. Whilst this may bring a united spirit between the office and the shop-front – it is important that the employees who come from the office are appropriately trained and competent.


Of course, the end of year work party is supposed to be a fun time. So keep it that way. But actively working through this list and putting measures in place to prevent anything bad from happening is important as well. After all, we all want to spent our end-of-year holidays safe, happy and healthy, with our family and friends. 


Join Safety Champion’s upcoming webinar Safety Advice for the Work Christmas Party – 20 November 2019, 11AM. Register here.

Newly Released Codes & Legislation – October 2019

Please find below a compilation of the latest legislation and codes, as of October 2019. Below this, you will see a list of all updates we have been tracking over time. Feel free to reference these as and when you need.


Safe Work Australia


First aid in the workplace | Model Code of Practice | August 2019





Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry | Code of Practice | October 2019




Legislation Amendments

Victoria has introduced new requirements for working with engineered stone.

The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2019, applies to Part 4.1 (Hazardous substances) of the OHS Regulations.

In addition to current requirements all power tools used with engineered stone must:

  • have an integrated water delivery system that supplies a continuous feed of water (on-tool water suppression), or
  • be fitted with on-tool extraction attached to a HEPA filtered dust class H vacuum cleaner (or similar system that captures the dust generated).

If these controls are not reasonably practicable, the use of power tools must be controlled through local exhaust ventilation (LEV).

In addition, it is mandatory to provide Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) and associated training to anyone who is cutting, grinding or abrasively polishing engineered stone with a power tool.

Other requirement around air monitoring and health monitoring still apply.


The amendments come into effect on 20 August 2019.

See link for more details



Western Australia

Proposed Legislation Changes

Public Consultation on Work Health and Safety Regulations for Western Australia is currently open, opportunity for comment ends 26 November 2019.  



Northern Territory

Legislation Amendments

NT WorkSafe has introduced amendments to blood lead removal levels in the WHS (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations 2011 in line with the 2017 national agreement. The new levels will become mandatory from July 2021.

Please see the link for more details.



New South Wales

Legislation Amendments

SafeWork NSW has made amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (WHS Regulation), these changes came into effect on 1 July 2019.

The WHS Act was amended to included Rural Workers Accommodation Provisions (The RWA Act 1969 was repealed).

The WHS Regulations had amendments in the following areas:

  • Adjustment of fees
  • Definitions changes
  • Hazardous chemicals to align with the updated GHS requirements
  • Lead definitions, thresholds and monitoring to align with National Review findings
  • Diving for work

Further details:




Draft Formwork | Code of Practice


SafeWork NSW has adopted the model codes of practice updated by Safe Work Australia throughout 2018. Mostly the updates are to improve readability and use, although there was a specific change made to the transport of asbestos waste in the Code of Practice: How to safely remove asbestos.

Abrasive blasting | Code of Practice | August 2019



Confined spaces | Code of Practice | August 2019



Construction work | Code of Practice | August 2019



Demolition work | Code of Practice | August 2019



Excavation work | Code of Practice | August 2019



First Aid in the workplace| Code of Practice | August 2019



Hazardous manual tasks| Code of Practice | August 2019



How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace | Code of Practice | August 2019



How to manage work health and safety risks | Code of Practice | August 2019



How to safely remove asbestos | Code of Practice | August 2019



Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing electrical risks | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing the risk of falls at workplaces | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing the risks of plant in the workplace | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing the work environment and facilities | Code of Practice | August 2019



Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals | Code of Practice | August 2019



Managing the risk of falls in housing construction | Code of Practice | August 2019



Safe design of structures | Code of Practice | August 2019



Spray painting and powder coating | Code of Practice | August 2019



Welding processes | Code of Practice | August 2019



Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination | Code of Practice | August 2019



South Australia

Legislation Amendments

SafeWork SA have introduced the Work Health and Safety (Blood Lead Removal Levels) Variation Regulations 2019 that came into operation on 1 July 2019. This change reduces the notification levels of the allowable blood lead levels in workplaces (by 2021), as agreed nationally.

Further information: https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/licensing/notifications/lead-risk-work

Dangerous Substances

Amendments to the Dangerous Substances (Dangerous Goods Transport) Regulations 2008 (SA) (DGT Regulations) came into effect on 1 July 2019.

These amendments ensure consistency across associated legislation including Edition 7.6 of the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (the Code).

Further information: https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/business-industry/transport/hazards-risks/transport-dangerous-goods



Newly Released Codes of Practice – June 2019

Here you will find the latest Codes of Practice documents as of June 2019. Below this, you will see a catalogue of updates for your reference on an ongoing basis.


Safe Work Australia

Review of the model WHS laws: Final report

The review of the model WHS laws was conducted in 2018 and was released publicly in February 2019.

Ms Boland made 34 recommendations for the improvement of the implementation of the model WHS laws. Here is the final report to see the full findings and discussions: 

Review of the Model WHS Laws – Final Report


Northern Territory

Best Practice Review of WHS in NT

The Northern Territory has also been reviewing their management of WHS. Please find here the review and recommendations from by Mr Tim Lyons.

Best Practice Report Final Report 10 January 2019




Construction and operation of solar farms | Code of Practice | May 2019



Electrical Safety Regulation | Minor Changes

  • Modified educational requirements of a “qualified business person” (QBP) and raised the experience requirements of a “qualified technical person” (QTP) from one year to two years under the ES Regulation. Effective 1 January 2019.

WHS Regulation | Minor Changes

  • Time period for Health and Safety Representative (HSR) training to occur reduced from six months to three months after election, with provision for a longer period if the training course is not reasonably available within three months. Effective 1 February 2019.
  • Making explicit that the Regulator can cancel the registration of a design or item of plant for non-compliance with a condition of registration. Effective 1 January 2019.
  • Enabling the sharing of information with other agencies that is necessary for those agencies to administer or enforce their legislation, namely the Biosecurity Act 2014, Exhibited Animals Act 2015, Labour Hire Licensing Act 2017, Planning Act 2016 andProfessional Engineers Act 2002

Further details:

WHS and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation 2018




WHS Regulations | Minor Changes

Division 2 – General diving work – Fitness and competence of worker | Changes Effective 1 January 2019:

  • Regulations 168, 169 and 170 regarding medical fitness to undertake general diving work;
  • Regulations 178 and 179 requiring a dive plan to be prepared and to be complied with, when general diving work is carried out; and
  • Regulations 180 and 181 requiring a dive safety log to be kept and retained for at least one year after the last entry.

Further details:



South Australia 


Abrasive Blasting | Code of Practice | March 2019 – Click here for updates

First aid in the workplace | Code of Practice | March 2019 – Click here for updates

How to manage work health and safety risks | Code of Practice | March 2019 – Click here for updates

Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace | Code of Practice | March 2019 – Click here for updates

Managing the risks of plant in the workplace | Code of Practice | 2019 – Click here for updates

Managing the work environment and facilities | Code of Practice | 2019 – Click here for updates

Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals | Code of Practice | March 2019 – Click here for updates

Welding processes | Code of Practice | March 2019 – Click here for updates

Work health and safety consultation, co-operation and co-ordination | Code of Practice | 2019 – Click here for updates


Western Australia


Concrete and masonry cutting and drilling | Code of Practice | March 2019




Newly Released Codes of Practice – January 2019

Here you will find the latest Codes of Practice documents as of January 2019. Below this, you will see a catalogue of updates for your reference on an ongoing basis.


Tasmania Codes

Work Health and Safety Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Welding Processes Code of Practice, Effective, 5 Dec 2018 

Spray Painting and Powder Coating Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Safe Design of Structures Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Preventing Falls in Housing Construction Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Managing the Work Environment and Facilities Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Managing the Risks of Plant in the Workplace, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Excavation Work Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Demolition Work, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Confined Spaces Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018

Abrasive Blasting Code of Practice, Effective 5 Dec 2018


SA Codes

No new or updated codes


NSW Codes

No new or updated codes


NT Codes

No new or updated codes


QLD Codes

No new or updated codes


Victoria Codes

No new or updated codes


Safe Work Australia

Stayed tuned for the public release of the 2018 Review of the model WHS laws: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/law-and-regulation/model-whs-laws/review-model-whs-laws


Newly Released Codes of Practice – October 2018

The past year has seen a substantial increase in the number of safety codes released for public review and now many have been adopted by the regulators. Safe Work Australia worked hard to released ten Model Codes of Practice that we are beginning to see local regulators adopt. Below is a list of clickable newly released codes of practice state-by-state, as of 21 November 2018.


Model Codes of Practice

Safe design of structures Code of Practice, October 2018  

Preventing falls in housing construction, October 2018

Spray painting and powder coating, October 2018 

Hazardous manual tasks, October 2018 

Confined spaces, October 2018 

Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work, October 2018

Managing the risk of falls at workplaces, October 2018 

Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals, October 2018 

How to safely remove asbestos, October 2018 

How to safely remove asbestos, October 2018 

Abrasive blasting, May 2018 

Construction work, May 2018 

First aid in the workplace, May 2018 

How to manage work health and safety risks, May 2018 

Managing the risks of plant in the workplace, May 2018 

Managing the work environment and facilities, May 2018 

Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace, May 2018 

Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals, May 2018 

Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination, May 2018 

Welding processes, May 2018


WA Codes

Western Australia has released a CODE OF PRACTICE Emergency management for Western Australian mines 

Draft Code: Mentally healthy workplaces for fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers in the resources and construction sectors 


NSW Codes

Managing risks in stevedoring, December 2017 


QLD Codes

Managing risks in stevedoring, March 2018 

Managing the risk of falls at workplaces Code of Practice, July 2018 

Recreational Diving, Recreational Technical Diving and Snorkelling Code of Practice, Feb 2018 


TAS Codes

Abrasive blasting, August 2018 

Construction work, August 2018 

First aid in the workplace, August 2018 

How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks, August 2018 

Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace, August 2018 

Managing the work environment and facilities, August 2018 

Managing the risks of plant in the workplace, August 2018 

Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals, August 2018 

Welding Processes, August 2018 

Work Health and Safety Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination, August 2018 


ComCare Codes

Managing risks in stevedoring, November 2017 


NT Codes

No new compliance codes


VIC Codes

WorkSafe Victoria has been working hard over the past year to review the Victorian Codes of Practice and Compliance Codes to bring them in line with current legislation and industry practice. While the Compliance Codes will be very similar to Model Codes of Practice they have been specifically designed to support Victorian Workplaces to meet their legislated duties.

Confined spaces, March 2018 

Demolition, May 2018 

Excavation, May 2018 

Facilities in construction, March 2018 

Hazardous manual handling, March 2018 

Hazardous substances, July 2018 

Noise, March 2018 

Plant, March 2018

Managing asbestos in workplaces, October 2018

Removing asbestos in workplaces, October 2018

Prevention of falls in general construction, October 2018

Prevention of falls in housing construction, October 2018




new and updated health and safety codes of practice

We will endeavour to keep this list of newly released codes of practice updated on a regular basis.

OPINION | Managing mental health in the digital world

By Mary Kikas | Senior Consultant


From a wellbeing perspective we (I mean the collective, worldwide ‘we’) are further isolating each other with our submission to technology in order to be more efficient, get ahead, cram more into our overflowing working days and lives.


Outside of professional realms we take on the world with our likes and dislikes through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. 


Within these arenas, we continue to seek immediate reinforcement and gratification that we are great, up-to-date, and conforming to our societal obligations in life, love, politics and the like.  In the meantime, our psychological and emotional wellbeing is being further compromised behind the constructs of our technological age.


And for what, a deteriorating mental health epidemic! What else can we do to drive meaningful communication and connection in order to enhance our personal and professional life?


Research demonstrates a strong correlation between social isolation and the health and wellbeing of older adults.


Across the world social isolation is one of the strongest predictors of health outcomes including morbidity and mortality rates. Attitudes and beliefs are divided as to whether technology improves our social connectivity or drives a firm wedge between our true selves and our digital alter egos.


Regardless, the fact of the matter is that deteriorating mental health is on the rise and this has been declared as a national emergency in not only Australia but also around the world.  



So where to from here you might ask? 

Each and every one of us has a role to play. Firstly, organisational policy should be informed by the fact that we are social beings and since the beginning of time we have levitated to each other for support (in terms of family, friends, peers and leaders) and guidance with the intention to learn, grow and evolve.


Nothing has changed and in fact our gauge of job satisfaction is very much influenced by peer and management support. Therefore, the approach to consider is one that is informed by our values and our genuine desire to care for and support each other.



So how does technology fit in to this picture?

There are various technologies that have demonstrated how they positively impact levels of social isolation by way of increasing communication and connectivity between individuals and groups of people.


We need to carefully navigate the use and application of mobile technologies, internet and communication technologies, to enhance communication in order to lead to higher levels of connection with others and decreased feelings of isolation and loneliness, which may increase the risk of deteriorating mental health.


Clear rules and standards of workplace conduct including working remotely from a satellite office or from home must inform our attitudes and practices on how we perceive and traverse the digital world. 


Opportunities for face-to-face open and collaborative communication and consultation is integral and mandatory in the process.


What does this look like you might ask?

Workplace forums must allow, for a safe space to encourage and empower the workforce to share thoughts and ideas in a respectful forum without judgement.

Furthermore, there must be a communication loop that informs the workforce of how their input has made positive change to the workplace whether in terms of informing policy and/or workplace culture.

Regardless, it is clear that our power and the true representative of ourselves is often best realised in the collective and not just the individual.


Prosecutions: 2018 Summary for NSW & Victoria

Workplace prosecutions are something that health and safety practitioners, and business leaders alike should maintain current awareness of. Why? Because due diligence is all about collecting information to better understand impacts to a business’s operation, to allow better and more informed decisions being made. The intention; in this instance, to prevent negative situations of the past being repeated.

For the fourth year in a row, Action OHS Consulting has taken some time to collate and review the data available from WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW. Used effectively, the provided information should support you to influence key stakeholders within your organisation, and assist your business to make informed decisions with respect to their health and safety program.

This article provides an overview of the prosecutions from 2015 through to the 2018 calendar years.


Prosecutions: Numbers and Related Legislation

Calendar Year 2018 saw a total of 132 prosecutions against the Victorian health and safety legislation, whilst in NSW the number of prosecutions was 48. When compared to the previous year, there has been a 26% increase in Victoria and a 71% increase in NSW. When compared to the average of the 3-years prior, there was a 40% increase in Victoria, and a 26% increase in the prosecutions that have occurred in NSW.


Within Victoria:

  • 124 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • 4 prosecution involved both the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007

4 prosecution involved either the: (i) Dangerous Goods (Transport by Road or Rail) Regulations 2008; (ii) Dangerous Goods Act 1985; or, (iii) Dangerous Goods Act 1985, Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004


While 2017 saw the introduction of the updated Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017; with prosecution timeframes on average over 2-years, the outcomes from prosecutions against the updated regulations are likely to become visible from 2019 and beyond.


Within NSW:

  • All 48 prosecutions were recorded against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.


Following the last prosecution against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 being in 2016, and with their being no prosecutions in 2017 or 2018, this may signal a complete transition in NSW to prosecutions against the harmonised legislation. Note the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 was superseded as of 1 January 2012.


Prosecution Timeframes

The timeframe for the prosecution’s outcomes from 2018, when measured against the date of the offence have been listed in the table below.


Table 1: Timeframe between date of offence and the prosecution outcome, for the 2018 prosecution outcomes reported by SafeWork NSW & WorkSafe Victoria. Bracketed numbers represent the increase / decrease from 2017.


When compared year-on-year, prosecution timeframes increased across all statistical definitions that were reviewed. The increased length in prosecution time will have an impact on business operations, as incident closure will be delayed. In addition to the prosecution, this is likely to impact both person- and financial resources. The reason for the increased time was not assessed.


Health and Safety Fines

Year on year, the average fine and median fine decreased in NSW. In Victoria only the average fine decreased, with the median fine staying at $25,000. The average and median fines were greater in NSW, when compared to Victoria. However, there were 2.5 times more prosecutions in Victoria.

In NSW each prosecution resulted in a monetary fine. In Victoria 114 fines were issued (87% of prosecutions). When considering total costs (e.g. court costs, court funds, etc.) all prosecutions against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 had a financially impact.

In addition to the fines, WorkSafe Victoria issued 6 Enforceable Undertakings in 2018 which equates to 5% of prosecutions. This is compared to the 6 (7%), 7 (8%) and 10 (7%) Enforceable Undertaking issued in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. An enforceable undertaking is a legally binding agreement between WorkSafe Victoria and the employer. The employer is obliged to carry out the specific activities outlined in the agreed undertaking. EU’s will typically guide and direct the business being prosecuted to improve its health and safety program.


Health and Safety Fines: Maximum Issued

With respect to fines, the maximum fines for both Victoria and NSW decreased year on year.

The maximum fines issued to a business were associated with the following events:

  • Victoria: The business provided high volume concrete pumping services to the construction industry. On the morning of the incident, the Operations Manager at the workplace directed employees to disassemble a concrete pumping component known as the ‘tower tube’ to enable it to be loaded by crane onto a truck for transportation (the task). The tower tube was approximately 15 metres long and was capable of being split into sections. The sections were held together with bolts. Each separate length of the tower tube weighed about two tonne. The task required loosening the bolts holding the lengths together whilst the tower was horizontal on the ground. In order to get access to certain of the bolts, the employees used a forklift to slightly elevate the tower. One employee took up position in the cabin of the forklift, whilst two others stood in front of the tower tube. The tynes were lifted and the tower tube slid off the tynes and struck one of the employees, trapping him against an adjacent brick wall. The forklift operator then repositioned the tynes to move the tower tube off the employee. The employee who was 28 years old sustained fatal crush injuries. The offender failed to provide a safe workplace in that the use of the forklift for this task was inherently dangerous given the nature of the load being lifted, and that a crane should have been used instead. The offender allowed its employees to improvise a system where it should have provided a system of work for splitting the tower tube (Charge 1). Further, it failed to provide instruction in that safe system of work and supervise its employees to ensure that a forklift was not used for the task (Charge 2). The offender pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $250,000 in relation to charge 1 and fined $250,000 in relation to charge 2.

NSW: A worker was fatally injured when he fell 2.9 metres onto a concrete slab while installing a walking platform between roof trusses. The defendant was charged with a breach of section 32 / 19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. On 26 March 2018, the defendant was convicted by the District Court and fined $405,000.

With respect to both prosecutions, it confirms the requirement for organisations to supervise and manage the work of their employees


It is not just businesses that are being prosecuted in relation to health and safety breaches

If you were of the belief that health and safety prosecutions were limited to corporations – think again. In 2018, 10% and 35% of prosecutions were issued to workers in Victoria and NSW respectively – equating to 13 and 17 prosecutions respectively. This is an increase in the distribution of worker related prosecutions from 2017. With respect to the greater prosecutions in NSW, this is likely to be associated with the explicitly defined due diligence duties placed on Officers (see Section 27-5 of Work Health and Safety Act, 2011).



An overview of the prosecutions related to workers in NSW and Victoria are as follows.

In NSW there were 17 workers prosecuted, with a maximum fine of $42,000 (in this instance the business was also fined $210,000). The prosecutions were associated with the following events:

  • A worker suffered crush injuries when the contents of a shipping container fell on him while he was unloading the container. The director defendant fined $12,500. The corporate defendant was fined $75,000.
  • A worker was injured when he was hit by a swinging branch cut from a tree causing him to fall approximately 11 metres from the roof of a house. The defendant was convicted and fined $20,000.
  • Over a 4-month period workers were exposed to a risk of serious injury in the operation of a self-contained wood-processing unit. The manufacturer’s built-in safety device had been removed and modified to permit an operator to use the handles with one hand instead of two. Those modifications were known to each of the three defendants. The defendants were convicted and the two (2) individual defendants were each fined $32,000. The corporate defendant was fined $160,000.
  • A worker was seriously injured when he fell approximately 5 meters from a roof when the temporary edge protection he leant on gave way. The director was convicted and fined $5,500. The corporate defendant was fined $75,000.
  • A 27-year old excavator operator, and a 54-year old plumber suffered serious injuries while attempting to repair a ruptured natural gas line. The plumber operated an electric jack hammer near the rupture which ignited the natural gas. The plumber was convicted and fined $2,200.
  • The defendant produced a document in complying or purportedly complying with the WHS Act and the WHS Regulation that the defendant knew to be false or misleading. The defendant was convicted fined $9,000 in total.
  • A renderer was working on a mobile scaffold when the mobile scaffold tipped and he fell approximately two metres. The defendant was convicted and fined $5,000, for not providing information pertaining to the incident. The corporate defendant was fined $20,000.
  • The defendant failed to comply with an issued Improvement Notice and as such was convicted and fined $2,000.
  • A machine operator suffered amputation of four fingers when she was using an unguarded industrial pillow filling machine. The defendant was convicted and fined $7,500, and ordered to complete 24 hours of training. The corporate defendant was fined $60,000.
  • A tree being felled at a private residence fell in an uncontrolled manner, causing significant damage to the roof and front façade of a neighbouring house. The defendant was convicted and fined $16,500.
  • An asbestos roof was water blasted as part of a painting contract at a residential property by the defendant and his brother. The water blasting contaminated the property and neighbouring properties with friable asbestos. The defendant was convicted and fined $18,000.
  • Over a 1.5 year period, a development undergoing construction had failed to address WHS issues arising from incomplete scaffolding, poor housekeeping and inadequate site security. The defendant was convicted and fined a total of $42,500. The corporate defendant was fined $210,000.
  • A worker was fatally injured when the asbestos roof sheeting of the warehouse he was working on broke, causing him to fall approximately 8.7 metres to the ground. The defendant was convicted by the District Court and fined $7,500. The corporate defendant was fined $75,000.
  • A worker fell approximately 3 metres headfirst from an unprotected edge at a construction site. The defendant was convicted and fined $24,000. The corporate defendant was fined $120,000.
  • A 25-year apprentice suffered serious injuries when he was moving a 530 kg air conditioning unit down the stairs with other workers when they lost control and the unit fell on him. The defendant was convicted and fined $7,500.
  • A worker suffered serious injuries to her hand when it became trapped in a manual cup folding machine that she was operating. The defendant was convicted and fined $25,500. The corporate defendant was fined $157,500.

This is compared to Victoria there were 13 workers prosecuted, with a maximum fine of $100,000 (in this instance the business was also fined $210,000). The prosecutions were associated with the following events:

  • The offender, a partner of a partnership which operated a residential and commercial construction business. A first-year apprentice and employee was standing on the external top plate of a partially constructed residence at a height of approximately 4.1 meters pulling up roof battens which were leaning on the wall frame. A safe work method statement had not been prepared prior to the high-risk work commencing and there was no fall protection such as a trestle scaffold in place. There was a risk of serious injury or death to employees as a result of a fall from height of more than two metres. The employee pulled up two of the roof battens at a time using both hands. The battens are about 6 m long. The employee put one down and grabbed one. He pulled it up approximately 500 mm and felt it scrape the top of the bearer and fall to the ground. The employee lost his balance and fell, landing on the bearers. The employee sustained several injuries including an L1 fracture in his back. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 and to pay costs of $2,512.05
  • The offender is a registered electrician. The offender was responsible for instructing a first-year electrical apprentice. On four separate occasions over an 8-month period the apprentice was tasked with work which required the isolation, disconnection and reconnection of power. This was work that should have been undertaken under direct supervision by a qualified electrician. There was a risk of death or serious injury to the first-year apprentice as a result of working unsupervised. The offender failed to take reasonable care as he did not supervise the apprentice when the apprentice was undertaking work involving isolation, disconnection and reconnection of power including power point installation, installing hardwired smoke detectors, replacing a Tastic light and repairing a hot water service. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $4,000 for Charge 1, $4,000 for Charge 2, $4,000 for Charge 3 and $4,000 for Charge 4 and to pay costs of $1,000.
  • The offender was the secretary, sole director and sole owner of a business who completed structural drawings for the basement excavation works for a mixed commercial and residential development. The offender was the structural engineer for the development. The structural drawings for the workplace did not require the concurrent installation of a site retention system. There was a risk to persons working inside, or working, residing or travelling in the vicinity of the excavation pit that, if the walls of the excavation collapsed, they could be seriously injured or killed by being engulfed in the collapse, or falling into the excavation pit. Sometime during the night part of the excavation collapsed in the workplace. On another night a further, and much larger, collapse occurred. In order to reduce the risk of collapse it was reasonably practicable for the offender to prepare structural drawings that required the concurrent installation of a site retention system that involved the installation of bored piers around the perimeter of the excavation before excavation commenced, the installation of rock anchors and the progressive installation of sprayed concrete infill panels until the required depth of excavation was reached. The offender pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $100,000.00.
  • The offender is an officer of the partnership engaged to demolish two single storey buildings at Prahran. A 55-year old employee was working as a labourer at the workplace. The offender was operating an excavator to clear the site. There was no designated walk area identified by barriers or pedestrian walkways to separate employees from the excavator when it was operating. There was a risk of serious injury or death as a result of the operating excavator colliding with employees. The employee was working behind the excavator when it started to reverse. The employee did not hear any reversing beeping noises from the excavator and yelled out to the offender when it came into contact with his leg, at which stage the excavator stopped moving. The employee received injuries to his right leg requiring surgery. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $5,000 and to pay costs of $3,000.
  • The offender was undertaking the building of six multi-level townhouses and was the architect, builder and owner of the project. The offender engaged contractors to perform building works at the workplace, including works in and around the internal stairwell voids of the multi-level townhouses. The offender failed to provide a proprietary scaffold system with a solid construction base and the capacity for perimeter handrails or an engineered temporary platform with a solid construction base and the capacity for handrails. The offender also failed to provide a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) that identified the risks of working at a height of greater than two metres and provided for suitable control measures. This created a risk to persons working in, or moving through the internal stairwell voids, that they could fall from a height that was greater than 2 metres, and that if they fell, they could be seriously injured or killed. A plastering subcontractor was standing on the temporary scaffold. The plastering subcontractor stood on the temporary scaffold for approximately 20 seconds, when it collapsed, and he fell approximately 2.5 to 3 metres to a concrete floor. The plastering subcontractor suffered a fractured heel, two compression fractures in his spine and assorted abrasions. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 and to pay costs of $15,064.
  • The offender was a Director of a company granted a licence as a Class B Asbestos Removalist. The company’s licence was renewed in 2007 for three years, and again in 2010 for five years, with an expiry date of 21 January 2015. In 2015 WorkSafe received an application for renewal of the licence. WorkSafe wrote to the company advising that its application for renewal had been refused and provided its reasons for this decision. It was established that following the notification by WorkSafe in 2015 that the company’s licence was not being renewed it had carried out asbestos removal work at 6 properties without being licensed to do so. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction, sentenced to an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour for 12 months and ordered to pay $3,300.00 to the Court Fund and to pay costs of $2,200.00.
  • The offender and sole director of a residential carpentry and construction company was engaged by a principal contractor to manage and undertake carpentry works at a construction site where 3 two storey units were being built. An apprentice carpenter was assisting in the installation of pre-fabricated roof trusses at a height of approximately 3 metres from the ground. The employee was working from a 200 mm aluminium plank which was positioned on two external walls. There was no passive fall prevention device in place such as scaffolding and this was attributable to the offender’s failure to take reasonable care. There was a risk of serious injury to employees as the result of a fall from height of more than two metres. The employee stepped back from the plank onto what he thought was the top plate; however, there was nothing there, and he fell backwards to the ground. The employee was diagnosed with compression fractures in L2 and L3. The offender pleaded guilty and was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 and to pay costs of $2,383.
  • The offender provides long haul transport services across Australia. The offender was engaged to transport mixed goods from Sydney to Melbourne. The goods contained dangerous goods. The truck was captured by CCTV approaching the Domain Tunnel eastbound. As the truck approached the tunnel, it stopped in an emergency lane. The offender exited the passenger side door and turned a “Dangerous Goods” placard around. He then re-entered the passenger side of the truck which then entered the Domain Tunnel. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction placed on a 12-month adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour.
  • The offender runs a demolition business and had been engaged to demolish a single storey weatherboard dwelling. A WorkSafe Inspector attended the address and observed two persons working at the workplace. The Inspector observed asbestos containing material (ACM) had been demolished and had been placed in the back of a utility without any lining or wrapping. Broken sheets of ACM lay under the veranda. The two workers telephoned the offender who attended the workplace. The Inspector issued a cease work direction and issued a Prohibition Notice to the offender. A clearance certificate was issued that day for the removal of ACM in the utility. The Inspector re-attended the workplace and observed a licensed asbestos removalist had been engaged to complete the asbestos removal. Further asbestos was located and subsequently removed. A clearance certificate was provided. Investigation revealed that the offender had successfully completed a course in ‘Remove non-friable asbestos’; however, he did not have an asbestos removal licence. The offender pleaded guilty to one charge as a person carrying out asbestos removal work without being licensed or registered. He was sentenced, without conviction, to a 12-month adjourned undertaking and ordered to pay costs of $3,406.60.
  • The accused was a 72-year-old woman who was the owner and operator of a scrap metal business. The accused had management and control of the workplace. The workplace is a second-hand goods and scrap recycling business which is owned and operated by the accused. There was a forklift at the workplace which the accused drove. She had never held a forklift licence as required by the OHS Regulations 2007. The accused was transferring scrap metal from inside a 1.8 metre metal bin into a larger 6 metre metal bin. The deceased was positioned inside the smaller bin which had been raised to approximately 3 metres from ground level by the accused operating the forklift. The 1.8 metre scrap bin that the deceased was standing in was not secured to the forklift or the forklift tynes. The bin raised on the tynes had only one channel (instead of the required two) on its base. The bin was not engaged at all with the tyne of the forklift, including with the one available channel. No attempts were made to secure the bin to the forklift. This bin was also in very poor condition with holes and corrosion in various locations. The forklift tynes were not spread as wide as they could be and were not central on the mast of the forklift. The task was also being carried out on uneven ground with a slight incline. There was a risk of death or serious injury to persons in the vicinity of the forklift, from being struck by the object and/or forklift. Further the conduct of raising the bin containing scrap metal on the tynes of a forklift, that was not secured to the forklift with the deceased inside the bin was reckless conduct that endangered another person who was at the workplace. The risk eventuated when the deceased fell from the bin, with the bin also falling from the tynes of the forklift where the corner of the bin land on the deceased’s head killing the deceased. The offender pleaded guilty and was on charge 2 convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 and on charge 3 convicted and sentenced to 6-months imprisonment. Costs were also ordered in the sum of $7,336.


 Prosecutions: What is the Cause and where are the Gaps?

With respect to the criteria/codes that lead to the prosecution – the criteria that was associated with 10% of the prosecutions in 2018, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria, are outlined below.



These criteria are relatively consistent with 2015 through to 2017. Both 2017 and 2018, have seen an increase in “construction- related” prosecutions, highlighted by the increase in “Falls/work at height offences”, “High risk construction work” along with the “Failure to prepare a SWMS”. This aligns with WorkSafe Victoria’s focus on high risk industries.

“Failure to provide a safe system of work” and “failure to provide a safe workplace” continues to places a clear duty on all workplaces to understand their operations, the hazards associated with their work, and ensure that the established controls are implemented.

Other criteria noteworthy to report on includes reductions in prosecutions related to:

  • Guarding
  • Failure to provide and maintain plant
  • Failure to notify WorkSafe Victoria of a notifiable incident


The Complimentary Support

Action OHS Consulting continues to observe a rise in inbound calls for support, associated with businesses wanting guidance, on how they can best manage their legal obligations associated with health and safety. As such, during late 2018 Action OHS Consulting developed and delivered a 4-part webinar series providing direction on this: The War on Safety. The good news is that it is free for you to download.
In addition, Action OHS Consulting is on a panel of providers endorsed by WorkSafe Victoria which provides complementary OHS Review’s for Victorian-based businesses with less than 60 workers across a period of 18-months. If you would like to find out more about this program, please contact us.


The Takeaway

The Health and Safety Legislation is risk-based and required businesses and their senior managers to understand and manage the hazards associated with their operations. Put simply, this leads to a requirement for workplaces to actively:

  • Assess their workplace hazards. Consider listing all the you’re your workers could get hurt, and document what you have put in place to stop this from happening. If it feels hard, try listing the “Top 5” hazards – focusing on those which could cause the most serious harm. Look to do this with several workers, across different roles within your business. If you identify things that you could improve and/or do better, this is not bad, in fact, it is the point of the exercise.
  • Establish an induction program. This may include a “buddy” being assigned to “new” and/or “young” workers. Ensure the induction includes an overview of your safety program and the operational activities that the worker will undertake.
  • Ensure your implementation is sustainable. Don’t rely on just one person. Spreadsheets and folders can be effective if you are organised, however, are difficult to maintain visibility when tasks are due – or more importantly, when tasks are missed. Web-based platforms such as Safety Champion Software will support visibility of your health and safety program, guide and remind you when deadlines and key milestones approach.
  • Considering safety when engaging contractors. Workplaces often engage contractors to support processes that the workplace is not familiar with, which often means new hazards are introduced to the workplace. Prior to engaging contractors, along with price, seek information from the contract to understand how they will help you maintain a safe working environment when they are onsite.
  • Consider safety as part of your procurement process. Before you buy anything, consider the safety implications. Don’t limit this to equipment, machinery, computers – extended this to services as well. Don’t make safety an afterthought.

We would be interested to hear your thoughts, questions or fears.

If like us, you would like to interrogate data, we would be more than happy to share an unlocked copy of the data with you – simply Contact us.


How to use communications tactics to support your safety program

One thing almost all of us in the health and safety industry can agree is true, is that safety doesn’t just happen. Much to the shock of many management teams and financial controllers, it takes a bit more than just banging out a manual and some policies, and assuming that everyone will magically follow them. We know, like you, it takes planning, know-how, and at times a bit of innovation to get an effective safety management system up and running in an organisation.


Certainly, there are some staples required for success in safety. We often speak about the necessity for your leadership to be actively promoting – and indeed living – safety. We also know about the importance of proper training and guidance from health and safety professionals of various areas of specialisation. And needless to say having clear, contextualised policies and procedures in place is paramount.


But an oftentimes-neglected component of the whole system is communication. By this we mean – how you convey what your safety management system is to your team, why it’s important, and how your team can be an active part of it, ultimately keeping everyone safer. After all, there’s no point having a great system in place if you don’t communicate what it’s all about, and importantly communicate it in a way that your team can easily absorb and understand.



What kinds of communication should you be considering?

There are many ways you can communicate safety messages and it doesn’t have to be a full-blown internal safety campaign with all the bells and whistles. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick brainstorm to think about what ways will be best in your workplace, and for your teams. Remember, this may vary between workplaces, and even between teams.


Since an important part of getting people to absorb a message is to repeat it, regularly, and in a variety of ways, we’d recommend starting with the ways you can get your message embedded in ‘business as usual’. The more touch points your team experience with your safety message, the more likely they’ll remember it.


For example, consider the following;

  • Do you have team meetings, weekly or monthly? Add a line item on the agenda to discuss your latest safety message.
  • Do you have a newsletter that goes out to staff? Add a regular spot in there for safety messages.
  • Does your CEO or another leader in the organisation send out organisational updates via email? Ensure that they too are speaking about your safety message.
  • Do you use other communications tools like Whatsapp, Slack or SMS? Try sharing your message through those channels too – an image with a message might work well.
  • Do you have a website or social media pages? Sharing your business’ safety values and culture publicly can be an effective way to encourage your team to get on board.
  • Does your team use some software or a computer program regularly? Think about ways you could drop a safety message in there with pop ups when they login, alternatively can you configure a little message on the dashboard.
  • Do you have tearooms or common spaces? Of course, there’s always room for a safety poster or two! Sharing your message in printed form is, and will always be, a great way to communicate as people take in messages in many different ways (it’s not always about digital, digital, digital!).



When might I need an internal safety campaign?

Internal safety campaigns are one tactic that many businesses adopt in order to convey key messages as part of their safety program. They often involve a creative agency or designer developing a series of communications materials that communicate your key message in a simple and very effective manner, perfectly suited to your needs. Usually a campaign will consist of a both printed and digital communication touch points, but might also include gimmicks, games or competitions to get your team really engaged with your safety message, for better retention.


Internal safety campaigns are often used in larger businesses or where your staff are distributed across several sites. They help ensure that everyone is getting a consistent message. Additionally, they might be adopted when you need a little more of a push when it comes to safety and are particularly effective if you are trying to change engrained or stubborn behaviours, or realign a negative workplace or safety culture.


Internal campaigns can also work very well when you are trying to communicate a newly developed safety program or trying to reinvigorate an existing one. They ensure that what’s written in your documentation, policies and procedures, actually make it into the hands or minds of your team. And if your safety program has many components to it, an internal safety campaign can help to share those different parts of the program at different points over a period of time. This way you can be sure to get your key safety messages across without overwhelming your team by hitting them with everything all at once. 



Messaging considerations for safety communications

If you are thinking about running an internal safety communications campaign or even just starting to actively share your key safety messages, there are some things you should consider when it comes to the messaging itself. It’s important to keep in mind that how you frame your message can impact how likely it is that your team will pick up what you are saying and actively want to be involved.


When you consider how to frame your message, you should always consider your audience. Think about how your team works; what motivates them, what they believe in or care about, what kind of team culture they have, and what your organisational values are. All of these things will help you to shape your message into the kind of message your people are more likely to listen to, and get on board with.


But regardless of your audience, there are a few dos and don’ts that we find are staples for the best uptake of your safety message;

What is effective?
  • Explaining what the end outcome might look like if everyone in the team performs their role in safety well. This can be very motivating to see.
  • Showing visual examples of your team actually performing the tasks or enacting the behaviour you’d like people to do themselves. It can be great to see how easy and the right behaviour is to do. And people will naturally want to do what they see others in the team already doing.
  • Contextualising your message to your workplace, your brand and your culture. It can be a great idea to leverage positive and successful messages that may have worked in other parts of your business, in your safety messaging.
What’s not effective?
  • Stating how big the problem is. This tends to be overwhelming and demotivating, putting people off any action at all.
  • Scaring or guilting people into behaviour change. As a general rule, you are better off taking a more positive spin. People don’t like to feel attacked or scared by their organisation or leadership teams.
  • Taking a blaming tone in your messaging. Blaming staff for not acting correctly before you’ve even suggested a way they could change their approach will certainly discourage engagement.


Design considerations for safety communications

The way your communication materials are designed will also influence how effectively it will convey your message to your audience. There are many bits and pieces of advice about what to consider when it comes to design; that data visualisation and images assist with uptake of messages, that colour might be more engaging than none, etc. However, in any case, remember to consider your audience when it comes to deciding on colours, composition, images, graphics, and text in your design. 


Often when we think of safety signage and safety comms, we think of ‘yellow and black’ or ‘red and white’. There’s a reason why these are common in safety signage – they are easy to read, they stand out, and they denote warning. However, that’s not to say these are the only colour combinations for your campaign. And in fact, repeating these colours over and over may have reduced impact – all the signage and messages might start to blend in with one another. You might need to consider a fresh approach. Take a look around the office and consider what might stand out. Then think about your message, your team, your organisational culture, and choose based on what will work best for what you are trying to achieve.



How do I get started with safety communications?

  1. Define your key problem – It can be tempting to try to communicate all of your key problems all at once. But we’d suggest tackling one at a time. Focus on one (the most important one) and then do another a few months later so that you don’t overwhelm your people.
  2. Decide on your message – What is the simplest way you can communication what your key problem is and what everyone needs to do to address it?
  3. Know your audience – Really consider the culture, values, beliefs and motivations of your team members
  4. Frame your message right – with your team in mind, shape your message to suit how they best learn or absorb messages
  5. Decide on your channels – Pick a few that will best suit your crowd, and share your single-minded message across a number of channels over a period of time.
  6. Develop materials – if you have the resources, use photos, graphics and simple slogans or tag lines to boost uptake of your message. Even if you don’t have design staff available, agree on your wording and be consistent when you communicate through various channels
  7. Timings – Have a think about when the best time to share your message is and how regularly you should share it. Perhaps in the lead up to Christmas isn’t the best time, as your team are already planning for holidays, but another time might suit better. Additionally, an old rule of thumb in marketing is that your audience must see your message 7 times before it will be remembered. Whilst the number of times you repeat your message must suit your audience and your intended outcome – it’s worth keeping in mind that communicating it once probably won’t cut it!



Some BONUS safety communication advice for stronger business

If you have a great safety management system in place, and your staff are really engaged in safety – celebrate it by communicating about it! Not only internally, but externally.


A big part of being in business these days is your ability to give back to the community or to display how you make positive impact in the lives of your team and your community. So, your solid health and safety practices are certainly to be celebrated! Write some social media posts every so often about how you are tracking with safety, put stories of success on your website, and engage your staff in the creation of this content. All of this helps to build a stronger safety culture, which ultimately keeps your people safer, healthier and happier.


If you are in need of any assistance when it comes to sharing your message internally or externally, give us a call or contact us here or read more what kind of safety communications services we offer here. Our design team can create an internal safety communication campaign or individual materials to suit your business needs.