OHS Blog

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.
Engineering

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

Codes

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

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1908/code_of_practice_-_first_aid_in_the_workplace_0_0.pdf

 

Queensland

Codes

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

https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/181940/Managing-respirable-crystalline-silica-dust-exposure-in-the-stone-benchtop-industry-Code-of-Practice-2019.pdf

 

Victoria

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

https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/changes-protect-victorians-working-engineered-stone

 

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.  

https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/publications/review-process-summary-develop-work-health-and-safety-regulations-western-australia

 

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.

https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/forms-and-resources/bulletins/amendments-to-blood-lead-removal-levels

 

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:

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/legal-obligations/legislation/accordians/legislative-amendments-1-july-2019

 

Codes

Draft Formwork | Code of Practice

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/about-us/have-your-say?SQ_VARIATION_409447=0

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/52145/Abrasive-blasting-COP.pdf

 

Confined spaces | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/50073/Confined-spaces-COP.pdf

 

Construction work | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/52151/Construction-work-COP.pdf

 

Demolition work | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/52161/Demolition-work-COP.pdf

 

Excavation work | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/52147/Excavation-work-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/52152/First-aid-in-the-workplace-COP.pdf

 

Hazardous manual tasks| Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/50078/Hazardous-manual-tasks-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/50081/How-to-manage-and-control-asbestos-in-the-workplace-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/50070/How-to-manage-work-health-and-safety-risks-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/50082/How-to-safely-remove-asbestos-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/50083/Labelling-of-workplace-hazardous-chemicals-COP.pdf

 

Managing electrical risks | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/50230/Managing-electrical-risks-in-the-workplace-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/50075/Managing-noise-and-preventing-hearing-loss-at-work-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/50076/Managing-the-risk-of-falls-at-workplaces-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/52155/Managing-risks-of-hazardous-chemicals-in-the-workplace-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/52156/Managing-the-risks-of-plant-in-the-workplace-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/50074/Managing-the-work-environment-and-facilities-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/50084/Preparation-of-safety-data-sheets-for-hazardous-chemicals-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/52157/Managing-the-risk-of-falls-in-housing-construction-COP.pdf

 

Safe design of structures | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/52158/Safe-design-of-structures-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/52159/Spray-painting-and-powder-coating-COP.pdf

 

Welding processes | Code of Practice | August 2019

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/52160/Welding-processes-COP.pdf

 

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

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/50071/Work-health-and-safety-consultation,-cooperation-and-coordination-COP.pdf

 

South Australia

Legislation Amendments
Lead

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

 

Queensland

Codes

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

 

Regulations         

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

 

Tasmania

Regulations

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:

https://www.worksafe.tas.gov.au/laws/the_legislation/whs_law_changes

 

South Australia 

Codes

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

Codes

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.

 

Get workplace safety happening this National Safe Work Month!

Every year, October marks National Safe Work Month in Australia. This month is all about encouraging businesses to focus on getting some great workplace health and safety practices up and running.
 
This year’s theme is ‘Be a Safety Champion’.
 
The purpose of this theme is to inspire and empower every worker, to be a champion for health and safety, no matter their occupation or industry. This makes sense, because it is everyone’s responsibility to uphold strong safety practices.
 
In workplace safety, businesses often have good intentions. They are aware that they have a legal obligation to ensure they have safety practices in place. However, it is not always easy to know where to start.
 
During National Safe Work Month, you can find some fantastic resources – many of them free – to give you some direction. At Action OHS Consulting, we provide the following advice to any organisation looking for guidance in safety.

 

1. Look at your operations.

Start by making a list of how you think people might get injured or hurt in your workplace. Then make a list of the things you are doing (or could do) to prevent these injuries/harm from occurring. This is essentially a fantastic beginning for a great safety program.

 

2. Talk to your people.

Set-up a meeting with your workforce – or better still coordinate a lunch or coffee. Invite them to share “anything that makes them feel unsafe”, or “how they think things could be done in a safer way”. Then listen. At the end of the meeting, discuss how future hazards and incidents can be reported and establish some processes so your people know what to do.

 

3. Seek guidance.

Start by going to the Safe Work Australia or WorkSafe Victoria websites this National Safe Work Month, and find great guidance materials or local events you can attend to learn more.
 
FREE TOOLS FOR WORKPLACE SAFETY MANAGEMENT
PLUS, there are many freely available resources available to all Victorian small and medium sized organisations. These are fantastic starting points for any business looking to establish strong safe practices and keep their people safer at work.
 
  • OHS Essentials Visit through WorkSafe Victoria. For businesses with less than 60 workers, this program involves 3 x 2-hour visits by a qualified OHS consultant over a 12 month period for free. Get some great guidance on workplace safety specifically for your needs through this program.
Register for your free visit here
 
  • Free cloud-based OHS Software. Our sister organisation, Safety Champion, launched its “Go Free” Plan. This is a forever free version of Safety Champion Software and is perfect for small and medium sized organisations wanting to keep safety processes on track on an ongoing basis. 
Learn more about what software can do for you here
 
Remember – safety doesn’t have to be as hard or as complicated as you might think. So, follow the steps above this National Safe Work Month to learn how you can be a safety champion in your workplace today.

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.

Applying a Health and Safety Approach to coping with the coming Federal Election

Welcome to election time in Australia for 2019. As that election day fast approaches, we know we can expect the spread of hackneyed phrases such as ‘A Fair Go’, vigorous hand-shaking by professionally-dressed men and women sporting hi-vis on worksites, and federal members of parliament reaching for babies. And yes, with this repetitiveness, it’s understandable that some of you, like some of us, may be feeling a little weary.

So… it got us talking in the office. We are a solutions-based lot. So we wondered, could we apply a health and safety approach to survive the risk of total meltdown during this campaign season??

Before we start to explore survival strategies, let’s first explore what risk is. Simply put, risk is a measure of the possibly that you, or me, might suffer harm from a hazard. So what’s the hazard in this case? Let’s go to step 1.

 

STEP 1: IDENTIFYING THE HAZARDS.

Straight away, at least one comes to mind, and this sits in the psychosocial area. Not sure what I mean? Let me throw out a few words you and others might be commonly feeling around this time, as we absorb the news media while we try to assess the best option.

Mind-numbing? The rhetoric!

Irritating? The inability to answer a straight question with a straight answer?

Boring? I will let you ***insert*** your own example here.

It really can get you down. All these reactions are indicative of, and linked to, negative wellbeing. And that, my friends, is a hazard certainly worth addressing. So, now that we have identified the hazard, lets apply the risk assessment approach to quantify the severity of the hazard. Bring on step 2.

 

STEP 2: ASSESSING THE RISK.

Likelihood vs consequence. The likelihood? Well, it’s almost certain that each of us will experience at least one of the above-mentioned negative states of mind before May 18. The consequence? Not fatal, but capable of causing severe harm if we are driven to put our collective boot through our TV, or significant property damage should your mobile phone meet a wall!

Granted there is great variation in the risk matrixes in circulation. However, based on the above, you would be hard pressed to assess the risk as anything less than “High” **wink, wink** (a little dramatic, maybe). Onto step 3.

 

STEP 3. CONTROLLING THE RISK.

Now, as any health and safety professional well knows, a high risk rating requires immediate attention. It requires controls. Whilst we could all go on a digital detox between now and polling day, this is unlikely. Also, this would mean that you might miss out on some of the nuggets of gold on offer that could help you make a decision on election day.

So, we’d suggest the best form of defence in this case is; Attack. Control the risk by doing what we should all, always, be doing in the workplace. Empowering ourselves!

  • Research what our politicians are saying.
  • Ignore the ‘6 second grab’.
  • Apply an evidence-based approach to critically analyse the manifestos.
  • Consult with others and use the requisite variety of our learned minds, to determine what is best for the country (and not necessarily for ‘me’).
  • Work the statements through to ask, ‘what if’.
  • Importantly, take an interest so that when you do cast your vote, the choice is the most informed one you can make.

 

STEP 4. REVIEWING.

No health and safety approach is complete without a review step. Thankfully, when you review your choice after say six months of the new Government being in place, you can draw on the evidence of your analysis to assess whether promises are being honoured. 

 

There you have it. A health and safety approach to coping with the coming federal election. Now that we think about it, it’s fair to say that this kind of workplace safety approach could be applied to solving many problems, on many fronts. It empowers, promotes critical thinking, and encourages the discourse to find a better way. And just maybe it might pull us back from the brink!

Good luck with your votes!

 

#fairdinkum #doilookgoodinbrightyellow #mwah

Photo by Hugo Heimendinger from Pexels

 

Workplace Culture and Leadership: Notes for the Aspiring Safety Leader

Action OHS Consulting has many years of experience working alongside and supporting the aspiring ‘safety leader’ within a broad range of industries. Despite consistent safety regulatory activity aimed at improving organisational safety performance, we still encounter significant challenges facing medium and large sized organisations in terms of how they manage safety within their organisation. Of those challenges that prevent effective safety management, one key roadblock we see fairly often is this: the attitude – often beneath the exterior – of leadership teams.

Whilst many leaders might externally say the right things, they do not always feel comfortable driving the development, implementation, and enforcement of their health and safety management systems – which when contextualised to the organisation, should drive effective decision making. This article explores how workplace safety culture is influenced and driven by effective leadership in safety. Specifically, this article covers:

  • the inputs required by leaders to drive continuous improvement in safety performance;
  • the positive impact that safety professionals can have on developing a workplace culture and supporting the safety leader; and
  • the traps to avoid to ensure that safety leaders and safety professionals maintain their voice when it comes to managing health and safety within complex organisations.

 

The Concept of Safety Culture within the Workplace

Safe Work Australia defines a positive safety culture in the workplace as:

 

“… everyone accepting personal responsibility for ensuring their safety and that of others. Supervisors and managers see safety as important and the things they do demonstrate their commitment to safety.”

 

Safe Work Australia’s Virtual Seminar Series featured Professor Andrew Hopkins speaking about the use and abuse of the term ‘safety culture’. In this webinar, he questioned what the term ‘safety culture’ means, arguing it is often misunderstood. He challenged the audience to consider advocating for a culture of ‘operational excellence’ rather than a ‘safety culture’, and advocated for a better understanding of culture as an opportunity to make workplaces safer. Professor Hopkins defined culture as ‘a characteristic of a group, not an individual.’ Furthermore, the organisation’s focus should shift to a more holistic approach which considers workplace culture in its entirety, rather than just safety culture. He supplied a more useful definition of the culture of a collective (group) as:

 

‘… consider culture as a set of collective practices – the way we do things around here’.

 

Further reading: Professor Patrick Hudson has undertaken research on safety culture and high reliability organisations. He developed an evolutionary model of Safety Culture based on a systematic basis for safety management. It was underpinned by an introspective process-driven organisational culture that supports processes beyond prescription and allowed organisations to identify and address gaps in their coverage.

“Safety Management and Safety Culture: The Long, Hard and Winding Road”. By Professor Patrick Hudson.

 

Safety as an Integral Part of Organisational Culture

One can easily get lost in the definition of, and aspiration for, a mature safety culture. A better approach may be to focus on the critical elements of leadership. It is the attitudes and actions of organisational leaders that ultimately drive organisational practices and builds a workplace culture that produces excellent safety outcomes (i.e. to ensure that there is a conscious effort made to plan for and manage known hazards), instead of defining aspirational levels of a safety culture.

In Professor Hopkins’ Virtual Seminar, he quotes an organisational anthropologist who concluded that ‘changing collective values of adult people in an intended direction is extremely difficult, if not impossible’. Professor Hopkins suggested that values can be changed by influencing organisational characteristics such as structures and systems. Therefore, if the focus is on changing behaviours (rather than values) driven by effective leadership, the safety performance will be more successful. This can be achieved through the implementation of a set of collective organisational practices which are driven by a strategic plan, that implements a process of control, measurement, rewards and consequences. This will drive and promote the organisational practices to generate an organisational culture, that is influenced by the collective culture.

An organisation’s culture is much more powerful than any individual. This is because the culture dictates what is important, who is important, and importantly what it takes to be successful. As a result, workplace culture has enormous impact on the organisation’s future direction.

 

Take-away: It is near impossible to substantially change the direction of an organisation, without changing the culture. If organisational leadership does not support the required change, then it will be incredibly difficult to implement changes to improve safety performance.

 

Quantitative & Qualitative Measures of Workplace Culture

Workplace culture can be measured through the use of assessment tools and measures. Elements can be measured directly, which enables an organisation to quantify workplace culture, and the level of operational excellence in a meaningful way. Any metrics should form part of senior leadership meetings to inform and measure improvement in the organisation’s compliance and progress with strategic metrics. A systems approach involves focusing on all three elements:

  1. individual or personal factors,
  2. organisational factors (i.e. management systems), and
  3. behavioural factors that reflect both the personal and organisational constituents.

Due to there being three elements, this approach may be referred to within some organisations as the tripartite approach.

 

Take-away: The implementation and utilisation of measurement data will ensure an evidence-based approach to improving operational excellence, workplace culture and safety within any workplace.

 

Leadership Vision for Establishing Safety and Operational Excellence

Leadership is almost the single most-powerful component of culture.1 Leaders affect change, which in turn, drives and sustains an organisation’s culture. In our experience across a broad range of industries, a poor workplace culture, with poor safety performance, usually implicates poor leadership. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, over twenty years ago Cooper stated,

 

“Leadership is generally viewed as a key determinant of organisational success in all its various endeavours”2.

 

Leadership is situation-specific; the characteristics needed are dependent on the situation3. Shein states: “The search for a universally correct leadership style is doomed to failure because of cultural variation by country, by industry, by occupation and by particular history of a given organisation”. Generally speaking, management within an organisation deals mostly with maintaining the status quo, whilst driving positive cultural change is the domain of leadership.

 

Take-away: What leadership looks like will vary between organisations – each leader must reflect and identify what good looks like for their organisations, and their skill-set. Why? For workplace culture to improve, it almost always needs to be led by the behaviours and actions of these leaders.

 

[1] Simon, S.I. and R.A. Carrillo. Improving Safety Performance Through Cultural Interventions. In Safety health & Asset Protection: Management Essentials, R.W. Lack, 2nd Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2002.

[2] Cooper, M.D. Improving Safety Culture: A Practical Guide. West Sussex, UK. John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

[3] Shein, E.H. Organizational Culture and Leadership. 2nd Edition, San Francisco. Jossey-Bass, 1992.

 

Leadership Behaviours to Strengthen Workplace Culture

Leaders should focus on values and behaviours to strengthen workplace collective practices. Discussion about cultural change, is in fact reference to behavioural change. An organisation is unable to change fundamental, individual core beliefs. However, organisational leadership can change culture by changing behaviours in the workplace.

We are not at this point advocating the utilisation of (in isolation), what most people refer to as a behavioural-based safety approach. In fact, the primary way to change behaviours in the workplace is via the development, implementation and enforcement of appropriate and considered (i.e. to the level of risk) organisational management systems, which incorporate safety, quality and environmental management; consistent with the organisation’s operations, which have had workforce input via consultative forums (internal, and potentially external).

The general behaviours that impact safety and operational excellence for leaders include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Establishing expectations. Leaders must translate their vision into clear expectations and accountabilities for safety performance at all levels of the organisation. This ensures that accountabilities and responsibilities are clear. It also provides a platform to enforce rewards, recognition and consequences, which will ultimately drive behaviour and workplace culture. The success of any Health and Safety Management System depends on the management team and workforce being held accountable for their performance.
  2. Implementing. Implementing process or operational safety to effectively manage foreseeable hazards through the implementation of suitable risk controls and workforce planning strategies is the key. A risk management approach, with explicit consideration to the hierarchy of control, will drive effective conversations where decisions made in relation to the risk associated with known-hazards are explicit and considered, making risk a key pillar of your workplace culture. This includes effective competency-based training that provide workers with the understanding of established controls, and the confidence that where identified by them, they will be required to assess and control hazards they are exposed to across their workday. Implementation also requires employee consultative arrangements and issue resolution processes, and a process to effectively manage rewards, recognition and consequences.
  3. Leaders doing. Leaders set a personal example of behaviours required for the desired workplace culture and safety performance. Their actions are influential when they are seen to follow and promote established safety rules, organisational policies, procedures and standards, are involved in safety meetings, or regularly include safety in their conversations. As a result, the conversations, behaviours and visible support by leaders play a major role in establishing and changing organisational culture. If the leaders don’t believe enough in the control to follow, why should their workers?
  4. Employee education. Leaders provide education, training and resources to ensure that employees are fully developed and prepared to positively contribute to safety performance.
  5. Employee empowerment. By training and supporting the workforce, leaders provide employees the authority, flexibility and partnership they require to perform and operate safely and effectively.
  6. Employee encouragement. What is imperative to proactive workplace culture, is leaders encouraging their workforce to strive for excellence in both safety and operational outcomes in order to meet organisational targets.
  7. Evaluation of effectiveness. Leaders need to measure, monitor and review the effectiveness of their organisational strategies and make any necessary changes. This drives effective, continuous improvement in the workplace.

 

Take-away: What is important to your leaders, will be important to your workers. If your leaders don’t believe in the established safety controls to follow, nor do they discuss or praise them; why should your workers?

 

Leaders’ Motivation and Experience to Drive Workplace Culture and Safety Performance

Leaders must possess both:

(i) the desire to act, and

(ii) a clear understanding of the specific behaviours that lead to excellent safety performance.

Stewart states, “top management must be committed to excellence and drive the agenda by establishing a vision, values and goals, and by seeing that all line managers have safety improvement objectives that are measured via safety audit performance and by personal visible involvement.1

 

Take-away: Get you leaders on board, before your start the journey. You may need to assist them to curate their story: Why is safety important to them?

 

[1] Stewart, J.M. Managing for World Class Safety. New York. John Wiley & Sons, 2002.

 

The Safety Professionals’ Role: Influence the Correct People to take Appropriate Action

Safety professionals can influence workplace culture by influencing the leadership team through organisational safety metrics, including inspection and audit findings. This can be achieved by:

  • Developing sound business cases for organisational safety improvements which are evidence based, and consider all aspects of risk (financial-, reputational- or, legal-based) in addition to safety.
  • Facilitating meaningful consultation across all parts of the organisation, so that work performed can be understood by the leadership team when making operational decisions.
  • Reminding leaders of their legal and regulatory obligations to provide adequate resources to allow work to be undertaken safely.
  • Providing a facilitated, coaching and mentoring approach with managers and leaders, in order to drive a strong workplace culture, with a focus on clear, effective and sustainable safety practices, that are integrated within all organisational management systems and where appropriate business as usual activities.

 

Take-away: In line with the advice that you source from your lawyer or accountant, the safety professional will assist you to effectively manage your legal obligations associated with safety and workers compensation.

 

Closing remarks for the aspiring safety leader

Effective and clear leadership is critical in establishing a workplace culture within which safety is firmly embedded. Implementation of practices from the top down through an organisations leadership team is the best way of improving organisational culture. Leaders can also ensure that adequate resources are provided to ensure sustainable practices are implemented. The role of the safety professional is to support and influence leadership teams through evidence-based approaches to safety management. Through this, the Safety Professional can inform strategic decisions; facilitate conversations to ensure that operational practices are understood by the Leadership Team when managing risk; and, support leaders to have effective safety conversations across the organisation.

Adopting an evidence-based approach to improving workplace culture and safety performance, driven by supportive and confident leadership attitudes, actions and objectives; will provide greater insight to the challenges we all face when looking to measure and identify ways to improve workplace culture and safety performance.

 

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

 

If you have any questions regarding this article or require assistance, please do not hesitate to Contact Us. We are more than happy to support any aspiring safety leader looking to embed strong safety practices within their workplace culture.

When the Safety Inspector Comes Knocking…

Have you had a visit from a safety inspector recently? Or perhaps a visit has been planned already? With safety inspectors conducting a significant number of proactive and reactive workplace visits across Australian jurisdictions (153,862 safety inspections over the 2016-2017 period – Safe Work Australia, Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, 20th Edition, December 2018), and with there being a significant number of safety notices and infringements being issued each year (almost 44,000 nationally in 2016-2017); it is important that workplaces are prepared for a visit from the inspectorate in their workplace.

If you are a workplace Manager, it is essential to understand why the safety inspector is attending your workplace, and how people in your workplace need to support and manage the visit.

 

Who is a Safety Inspector?

A safety inspector is a representative of your State’s or Territory’s health and safety regulator, appointed to monitor and enforce your workplace compliance against relevant health and safety legislation – with the aim of reducing incidents (and injuries) in your workplace, in order to keep your workers and those impacted by your work, safe. The Regulator is the government agency tasked with supporting and enforcing jurisdictional health and safety legislation for example WorkSafe Victoria or SafeWork.

The safety regulators across Australia take on various approaches to monitor and achieve compliance. This is a dual approach which sees the regulator provide both:

(i) support and guidance to workplaces on how they can meet their legislative obligations, while also;

(ii) enforcing compliance and penalties when there have been breaches of legislation.

Not sure who your regulator is, or what health and safety legislation applies to you? Check out this link – Links to each Health and Safety Regulator and Legislation.

 

Safety Inspector Right of Entry

Safety inspectors have powers to enter any workplace with or without notice (note: there may be limits on the power to enter workplaces that are also domestic premises). Typically, inspectors will enter a workplace when:

  • responding to an issue raised by representatives of the workplace, contractors, members of the public, etc. – this may be via unsafe practices being reported through the regulator’s Advisory Service;
  • after a notifiable incident has occurred [Notifiable Incidents]
  • during targeted programs – often the regulator will target either regional areas, specific industries or specific work practices; or
  • when requested by the workplace or employee representative to provide guidance.

 

General Safety Inspector Visits

When visiting a workplace, the safety inspector may make an appointment beforehand, or alternatively attend the workplace without notice. When arriving at your workplace, the first thing that the safety inspector will do is show their identification badge and explain the reason for their visit. If there has been a confidential report, or notification of a safety-related issue at the workplace, they do not need to provide any personal identifying information (partly to protect the person making the report to the regulator, who may or may not be one of your workers), but will let you know, and provide a broad overview that there has been a report, or an issue raised.

The safety inspector may observe the general workplace operations and will usually have a particular focus. For example: matters involving bullying and harassment; machine guarding; high risk work; traffic management, etc. Safety inspectors have the power to view and comment on other areas and practices of the workplace beyond the original reason for attendance if they believe there may be a risk to health and safety.

Key Tips to Follow When the Safety Inspector Visits:
  • Be respectful to the inspector (people tend to be reactive if treated badly – safety inspectors are no different).
  • Have them undertake your visitor sign in process.
  • Ensure that they are always accompanied on site by an appropriate organisational representative (i.e. a Senior Manager).
  • Provide them with a space to prepare any documentation; e.g. Entry Report, Improvement Notice, (if requested).
  • Be concise; listen and directly answer the question(s) that the safety inspector asks (you are entitled to take some time to ensure the answers provided are correct).
  • Don’t attempt to hinder their inspection.
  • REMEMBER you can ask for:
    • further guidance – if you do not understand their question and/or request;
    • additional time to comply with the inspector’s request;
    • reasonable time to seek advice; and
    • written clarification of any comments or requests.

If there is a difference of opinion regarding what is reasonable, or, you have concerns about requests made by the safety inspector – remember to be polite and respectful! Know that you can challenge or clarify an inspector’s opinion or decisions via an internal review process in the weeks after the notice has been issued.

Like the police, the safety inspector has explicit protections within the health and safety legislation, so abusive and/or threatening behaviour may see result in personal charges.

When the safety inspector has completed the visit, the safety inspector is required to issue an Entry Report as soon as practicable. The Entry Report will outline the date and time of the visit, the purpose of the visit, a description of the tasks undertaken and observed, their contact details and any additional details of information collected on the day and any notices issued. If there are any errors in the information that is contained within the Entry Report or Improvement Notice(s) issued, you can discuss this directly with the safety inspector. If this does not address your concern, you can appeal through the regulatory Internal Review process.

 

Notifiable Incidents

If there is a notifiable incident in your workplace, you have a legal duty under the health and safety legislation to advise your safety regulator immediately by phone (once safe to do so, you are not expected to call the regulator before making sure people have received appropriate medical assistance and the site is safe) and in writing within 48 hours. The Advisory Service will notify the inspectorate, who will then either have the Inspector then send a safety inspector to your workplace to investigate.

In addition to notifying your health and safety regulator, you have a legal requirement to preserve the incident site until the safety inspector has arrived or you are otherwise notified by the regulator to resume work. This does not however preclude you from providing help and assistance to injured persons and making the workplace safe. This may mean that your operations have to stop or cease for an extended period of time, this is one of the financial impacts that your organisation should consider as part of “health and safety” impact.

 

What is a Notifiable Incident?

Incidents that are notifiable vary between state and territory regulators. However, include workplace safety incidents that result in:

  • the death of a person;
  • a serious injury or illness; or
  • a dangerous incident.

Serious injury or illness includes, but is not limited to, incidents that result in a person requiring:

  • medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance
  • immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospital
  • immediate medical treatment for:
    • amputation
    • serious head injury
    • serious eye injury
    • separation of skin from underlying tissue (for example de-gloving or scalping)
    • electric shock
    • spinal injury
    • loss of bodily function
    • serious lacerations.

The duty to notify the safety regulator also applies to safety incidents that: expose a person in the immediate vicinity to an immediate health or safety risk, including:

  • the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, plant that is required to be licensed or registered;
  • the collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation;
  • the collapse or partial collapse of a building or structure;
  • an implosion, explosion or fire;
  • the escape, spillage or leakage of any substance including dangerous goods;
  • the fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or object.

In addition, the duty to notify is also required for the following serious illnesses[1]:

  • Any infection where the work is a significant contributing factor. This includes any infection related to carrying out work:

(i) with micro-organisms

(ii) that involves providing treatment or care to a person

(iii) that involves contact with human blood or bodily substances

(iv) that involves handling or contact with animals, animal hides, skins, wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste products.

  • The following occupational zoonoses contracted in the course of work involving handling or contact with animals, animal hides, skins, wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste products:

(i) Q fever

(ii) Anthrax

(iii) Leptospirosis

(iv) Brucellosis

(v) Hendra Virus

(vi) Avian Influenza

(vii) Psittacosis.

[1] A requirement for notifiable incidents under Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation

 

 

Safety Inspector Visits and Investigations after a Notifiable Incident

Whenever a safety inspector attends your workplace, the safety inspector will adopt a formal approach.

For all notifiable incidents, or serious breaches of legislation, the regulator is likely to investigate in a similar way to a police investigation. This means that they are likely to conduct interviews, collect evidence, and, in some circumstances, remove documentation and hard drives from the workplace. In the instance of a workplace fatality, the police will also conduct their own independent investigation.

Some regulators have different internal departments that perform proactive and reactive workplace visits, a regulator representative may be referred to as an investigator, as opposed to a safety inspector. Although the investigator has a different title, they are appointed as a safety Inspector under the relevant health and safety legislation and therefore have the same powers of entry to the workplace. When conducting investigations at a workplace, the investigator along with the safety inspector can:

  • view all areas of the workplace,
  • request to interview employees and managers, and
  • ask for further information and obtain evidence by taking photos, documents, measurements, samples and recording interviews or demonstrations.

While it is an offence to hinder an inspector’s investigations it is not an offence to:

  • keep track of any evidence obtained by the inspector or comments raised during the visit, in fact it is highly advisable to keep an independent track of the visit, as often it is a stressful time and it may be hard to remember what was discussed or happened on the day. Develop a plan to ensure you have a very clear list of what was provided to the regulator. It is best to seek time to enable proper compliance with any request and to ensure that copies are kept of all documents taken by the inspector.
  • For significant incidents (i.e. fatalities and/or permanent disability) – seek legal counsel to understand what approach will best support your business.

 

Planning for Notifiable Incidents and Safety Inspector Visits

To best prepare both employees/workers and managers alike, a detailed plan for safety inspector visits and regulator investigations is essential. As a business you should identify and document a process outlining how your organisation will identify and manage a notifiable incident, and potentially a visit by a safety inspector. Things that you should consider include:

  • Who has the relevant seniority and training to contact the regulator and advise them that a notifiable incident has occurred;
  • How and who will be involved to communicate to the workforce and management to preserve the site, if required;
  • Who will complete the written online report to the regulator;
  • Who will accompany the safety inspector if they attend the workplace;
  • If the safety inspector attends the workplace, how will you allocate relevant people to be available onsite;
  • Will you provide independent advice to employees to assist them in the interview and investigation process;
  • Providing assistance or counselling (e.g. via the Employee Assistance Program) to anyone who may have witnessed or been involved in an incident (there is no obligation to keep employees at the workplace to await the arrival of an inspector).

 

Know Your Rights when in conversation with Safety Inspectors or Investigators

It is extremely important that everyone knows their rights before any requests by a safety inspector to provide information are dealt with. However, there are differences between each jurisdiction, and therefore care needs to be taken.

Regulators can request a person to provide documents or evidence, either verbally or in writing. When asking for documents or evidence, the regulator has to have reasonable grounds to believe that the information will assist in performing their duties under relevant health and safety legislation. It is recommended to get all requests for documents or evidence from the safety inspector or investigator, in writing.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act (which includes all Australian states and territories with the exception of Victoria and Western Australia), a person may not refuse to provide information under the belief that the information may incriminate or expose the person to a penalty. Under the Work Health and Safety Act the information they provide when requested in writing, cannot be used to bring charges or penalties against them personally, apart from proceedings arising out of false or misleading information. If you provide information in relation to a breach under the Work Health and Safety Act, the information cannot be used against the individual. However, if information is freely provided, without the need for the regulator to utilise their powers of coercion and submit a written request, the information can be used to build a case against the individual personally. This is the primary reason why all requests for documentation and evidence should be provided in writing.

In Victoria, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act the rules are different. Although a person at the workplace is required to answer questions from the inspector, the privilege against self incrimination still exists. An inspector will normally allow a person to seek legal advice if this is requested, before continuing with questioning. It is important that, directors, managers and employees in Victoria are aware that if they have a concern, they can protect themselves by reasonably refusing to answer questions under the privilege against self-incrimination and asking for time to receive legal advice.

If the employer or an employee refuses to answer questions, or provide information when requested by the regulator, they will need to have a ‘reasonable excuse’. Stating that legal advice precludes a person from speaking to the regulator (for example saying my lawyer has advised me not to speak to the regulator), is not a reasonable excuse and cannot be relied upon when refusing to provide information or conduct an interview. However, requesting additional time to comply with requests, asking for written clarification and also requesting to be excused and given reasonable time to seek legal advice, is within the rights of both employers and employees.

when the safety inspector comes knocking

 

Safety Inspector, the take home

Safety inspectors are in place to monitor and ensure that businesses operate in accordance with the duties outlined within the relevant jurisdiction health and safety legislation. Remember, this legislation is designed to ensure that your workplace continues to take proactive steps to keep your workers safe from harm – the intention is aligned with what each worker, and their family expect, when they turn up to work each morning. Therefore, implement a strategy and systems of work for dealing with a regulator visit. However, continue to be focused on building a health and safety program that keeps workers and others in the workplace safe, at all times. To do this, ensure that your business has:

  • identified and managed the critical hazards and risks associated with your operations;
  • implemented a health and safety framework to ensure that risks are suitably mitigated, monitored and reviewed,
  • provided all workers with relevant induction and competency-based training;
  • consulted with workers on matters involving their health and safety on a regular and consistent basis;
  • kept up to date with legislative changes relevant to the industry; and systems of work are reviewed and updated to reflect these changes; and
  • competent senior management who is involved in reviewing and driving safety strategies to mitigate risk.

A proactive and transparent approach will ensure legislative compliance and your ability to manage a serious workplace incident and/or a visit from a safety inspector.

 
If you have any questions regarding what to do when the safety inspector comes knocking or require assistance in meeting your health and safety duties and obligations, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.

A Risk Management Approach to Work-related Stress

 

Organisations have a responsibility to ensure processes are in place to manage work-related stress. Understanding that, the identification of work-related stress can be hard. This post has been constructed to provide you with a Risk Management approach to managing work-related stress.

 

Firstly, what is work-related stress?

Work-related stress is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work“.

 

Identifying if work-related stress is a hazard in your workplace?

Whilst work-related stress may not be as visible as “physical” hazards – for example, trip hazard in walkways, or un-guarded machines; there are come clear indicators that can inform you that work-related stress is a hazard that your workplace should pay closer attention to. Within your organisation, you can gather insights, as to whether work-related stress “is a thing”, by reviewing, or considering the following:

  • Absenteeism trends and records from the last 2-3 years
  • Incident and Injury data trends from the last 2-3 years
  • WorkCover Claims from the last 2-3 years – with a focus on psychological and manual handling injuries
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) uptake from the last 2-3 years
  • Data relating to interpersonal issues across teams and departments from the last 2-3 years
  • Workplace Satisfaction Survey results. Note: If you haven’t previously complete surveys like this, you may look to conduct Job Satisfaction Survey. Allowing your workforce to share their thoughts, can improve moral and workplace culture.
  • Client Satisfaction Surveys, Client Complaints, etc.

In addition, you may look to “just ask” your people (employees, Health and Safety Representatives, Supervisors and Managers) and gather their thoughts on whether work-related stress, is a “thing” at the workplace. When you do consult, consideration should be given to:

  • Job roles, job clarity; and
  • Job demands, quality of breaks, etc.

 

work-related stress, workplace stress, a risk management approach

 

Assess work-related stress risk(s) of injury or illness

You don’t have to conduct a formal work-related stress risk assessment if there is information about the risk(s) and how to control these. However, the Work-Related Stress Prevention: Risk Management Worksheet is a useful tool to conduct a hazard identification and will allow you to have a documented record of this taking place.

 

Controlling work-related stress

If you have identified that work-related stress can be better managed within your organisation, via:

  • your review of trends,
  • conversations with workers, or
  • from your work-related stress risk assessment.

It is important that you explicitly (i.e. loudly) work towards identifying, and then implementing the controls to reduce work-related stress. If you have involved your workforce with the work-related stress risk assessment, it becomes even more important that you communicate your initial findings and provide them with a broad overview of next steps, which should include some timelines. Not communicating to your workforce, or, just “stopping” at the end of the work-related stress risk assessment component (before any controls are implement), can cause distrust with the workforce. Often, this will increase the severity of the work-related stress hazard.

 

Even is the work-related stress hazard is low, or controlled; it is a hazard your business should continue to review and manage.

 

Establishing work-related stress controls and monitoring these

Once you have identified that work-related stress is a hazard, whether this is rated Low, Medium, High or Extreme, it is important that you identify and assess controls against their effectiveness to be implemented into your business’s practices. You should and not rely on a work-related stress control, just because another workplace has adopted it. When establishing work-related stress controls, you should follow the process beneath:

  • Consult with employees and their HSRs to determine which measures to implement in order to eliminate or reduce work-related stress risks.
  • Develop an Action Plan with targets, timeframes and person(s) responsible. The Action Plan should include how risk control measures will be implemented, resourced and monitored.
  • Monitor progress of action close out through the Health and Safety Committee.

 

 

Work-related stress early intervention strategies

Thinks that you can do right now, to positively impact, and start on your pathway to reducing work-related stress at your workplace includes:

  • Completing the WorkSafe WorkWell Toolkit (questionnaire) to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.
  • Developing and implementing the following documentation:
    • Workplace Values and Principles
    • Workplace Code of Conduct
    • Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination Prevention Procedure
    • Drug & Alcohol Policy or Fitness for Work Policy
    • Incident, Hazard, Near Miss Reporting and Management
    • Injury Management and Return to Work Procedure (that includes physical and psychological injury)
    • Clearly defined job roles and Position Descriptions
    • Communication and Consultation Procedure
    • Dispute and Health and Safety Issue Resolution Procedure
    • Grievance Policy
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Policy
    • Rewards and Recognition Policy

Building documentation to manage work-related stress (or any hazard for that matter) can support a business to provide clarity and consistency its workers regarding its approach. In addition, the “building” of the documentation is an opportune time for a business to reflect and consider the “position” that they wish to take.

  • Provide training to managers and supervisors on the management of work-related stress; bullying, harassment and discrimination.
  • Offer employees access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This is a confidential service that will provide employees with someone external to your organisation, to assist them to establish strategies to manage their work-related stress. If you have EAP in place, consider consulting with the workforce to ensure the quality of service provider.
  • Liaise with the organisation’s EAP provider and ensure that they provide you with a monthly or quarterly report. This report should table uptake of the service by employees, update by department, and the reason/code for the call. These reports may flag an increase in uptake due to things happening in the workplace which may attribute to work-related stress, for example: restructure, significant change event, redundancies, bullying and harassment issues, etc.
  • Schedule employee work-related stress awareness sessions through your EAP provider, beyondblue, Heads Up, etc.
  • Promote stress and suicide prevention campaigns in the workplace such as R U OK?, etc.

 

Useful resources to broaden your understanding about work-related stress:

WorkSafe Victoria provides the following links to assist with the management of work-related stress:

 

Safe Work Australia provides the following links to assist with the management of work-related stress:

 

Mental Health Support Organisations:

 

Work-related stress – More information?

If you would like any further information regarding work-related stress, please reach out, we would love to hear from you. Our contact details can be found: Contact Us. We would love to discuss the topic of work-related stress with you in more detail. 

Chain of Responsibility – Meeting the Challenges

Chain of Responsibility (CoR) places legal obligations on parties in the transport ‘supply chain’ and across transport industries in general. You are considered part of the road transport ‘supply chain’ if you have any control or responsibility over any transport task, such as consigning, packing, loading or receiving goods transported by vehicles over 4.5 Tonne as part of your business. In simple terms, the supply chain refers to the businesses and people involved with moving a product or service from the supplier to customer. Since 2008, the expectation has been that all parties involved in the road freight supply chain have responsibility for managing risk associated with their activities in the movement of product by road freight.

CoR laws apply in QLD, NSW, ACT, TAS and SA under the Heavy Vehicle National Law and in WA under the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Act. The NT does not have a specific CoR provision in transport law, however employers carry obligations under Work Health and Safety Law (refer NT Government – Penalties).

Changes to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) came into effect on 1 October 2018. These changes have been designed to strengthen safety expectations and ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for breaches. As a result of their alignment with safety legislation, the proposed changes may be of relevance to your workplace.

The proposed Chain of Responsibility changes will:

  • Place a primary duty on each party involved in the supply chain. Primary duty represents a duty to eliminate or minimise potential harm or loss (risk) by doing all that is reasonably practicable to ensure safety. This will make any party (or parties) within the supply chain liable in the event they have requested or influenced unsafe work practices to take place, from either internal (fellow workers) or external (customers/contractors);
  • Ensure a positive duty is placed on individuals to control risks. A positive duty requires an individual to proactively control risks (so far as is reasonably practicable) associated with areas in the chain of responsibility over which they have control;
  • Ensure responsibility is shared across the supply chain, not just born by the driver. The following roles and responsibilities have been explicitly identified by the HVNL; Operator/Manager/Schedulers, Consignor/Consignee, Loading Manager/Loader/Packers – an overview of individual roles and responsibilities can be found at the following link NHVR;
  • Place the burden of proof on the prosecutor to prove non-compliance (as is currently the case in most WHS/OHS legislation across Australia);
  • Enshrine the concept of ‘Reasonably Practicable’ to assess liability rather than ‘Reasonable Steps’ (again, as is currently the case in most WHS/OHS legislation across Australia);
  • Include a Vehicle Safety Standard (including dimensions) along with Speed, Fatigue and Mass Management Standards;
  • Expand the National Heavy Vehicle’s Regulator’s investigative, enforcement and information gathering powers to bring them into line with current WHS regulator’s powers.

 

action ohs consulting chain of responsibility legal obligations and advice

So, what do these Chain of Responsibility changes mean in practical terms?

 

Primary Duty –The proposed Chain of Responsibility redefines ‘deemed liability’ to one of ‘primary duty’. In other words, it is recognised that actions by other parties elsewhere in the supply chain can influence unsafe outcomes. To effectively manage this duty, the following questions should be considered:

  • What activities do I directly control in the Supply Chain?
  • What can I do to ensure that my actions in this step do not place our workers and other persons at risk?

For example, if you have control over loading times, are they reasonable to allow drivers adequate time to perform deliveries? Or, are they unreasonably forcing drivers to break curfews, speed limits or fatigue rules?

 

Positive Duty – Positive Duty recognises that Executive Officers of companies have the capability to make decisions which can impact a workplace and road safety. Under the CoR it will now be possible to prosecute individuals at the Officer level in addition to prosecuting the business or corporation, even if a CoR related accident or incident has not taken place.

For example, an Executive Officer’s decision not to pay for truck servicing may result in a prosecution, even if a road accident has not occurred. In addition, Directors making decisions which can be proven to impact safety in the supply chain can result in Directors being personally liable.

It should be noted that ‘reckless’ decisions (decisions, in which a ‘Person’ deliberately and unjustifiably pursues a course of action while consciously disregarding any risks flowing from such action) can attract a maximum five-year jail penalty.

To effectively manage this Positive Duty the following question should be asked:

  • What impacts will the decisions I make impact safety within the Supply Chain ?
  • How will requests I make to our contractors or customers impact their safety within the Supply Chain?

For example, if I make a decision on trip times (whether the truck is driven by a directly employed driver or contract driver), I have a positive duty to demand scheduling times which do not force unreasonable driving times or speeds.

For example, if I make a decision to reduce maintenance budgets, I need to ensure that vehicle safety is not compromised due to reduced servicing (e.g. brakes, tyres are appropriately maintained).

 

Reasonably Practicable – The concept of ‘Reasonably Practicable’ replaces ‘reasonable steps’. Factors which will be used to determine ‘Reasonably Practicable’ include:

  • The seriousness of the hazard (consequence); or
  • What was known about the hazard; or
  • What the person should have known about controlling the hazard; or
  • How likely it was that the hazard would result in harm (likelihood); and only once these four factors have been considered –
  • The cost of controlling the hazard.

Keep in mind, ignorance is not a defence. In general, the courts review what a person should have reasonably known about controlling a hazard and they will look to current industry customs and practices. If other organisations involved in a business similar to yours have managed to implement controls, and these controls are common, known, or easy to establish, it will be very difficult for your organisation, or even yourself as an individual, to claim it was not reasonably practicable to control the risks/hazards.

 

Vehicle Safety Standard – The following has been enshrined as a Chain of Responsibility Standard ensuring that vehicles are safely maintained; external signage on vehicles is correct; and, vehicle dimensions are not exceeded. This Standard defines responsibilities for ensuring that truck maintenance, scheduling and load make-up / method of securing loads is undertaken and has synergies with other Standards such as Fatigue and Speed and Mass Management. The following questions are key items for consideration under this standard:

  • Which truck and trailer should be purchased?
  • How should the truck and trailer be maintained?
  • How will unusual shaped loads be secured and carried?

 

In Summary – The above Chain of Responsibility changes present opportunities for organisations to manage CoR in exactly the same way that they manage other workplace risks. A proactive approach to managing your CoR obligations should include:

  1. Identifying work areas in which your organisation influences and/or controls safety across the supply chain.
  2. Undertaking a gap analysis to determine where your gaps are and what you need to develop/ implement to ensure compliance with the new CoR rules.

Note: The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) website lists a self-paced gap assessment tool: https://www.nhvr.gov.au/safety-accreditation-compliance/national-heavy-vehicle-accreditation-scheme. If you haven’t done this yet you really need to make a start!

  1. Adopting a preventative and proactive approach to ensure that all known risks (including compliance gaps) are addressed before they manifest themselves; the highest rated risks being addressed as a priority;
  2. Ensuring that the CoR requirements are understood and supported across all levels, in particular by the leadership teams at the Executive Officer level.
  3. Integrating CoR into your current Safety Management System. This will avoid duplication of practices and processes, for example – integrating compliance management (e.g. speed, fatigue, mass, dimension, loading and vehicle standard requirements) into current work practices such as maintenance programs, and ensuring regular reporting will assist with managing CoR requirements.
  4. Adopting an ‘Assurance’ approach in which the CoR processes in place are tested regularly to ensure they comply with CoR Laws.

Such testing should be planned for and evidence of completion documented. Testing may include:

  • Internal or External Audits/Reviews,
  • Reporting on system related data (i.e. incidents; completion of planned tasks such as: maintenance activities, registration, training/licences, etc.; complaints breaches, inspection performance, etc.), or
  • Ongoing consultation with all parties involved in your supply chain (to ensure ongoing compliance).

 

Sounds familiar? It’s not much different from the compliance principles outlined in health and safety legislation. So, if you are currently managing health and safety legislation requirements, the same approach can be used to manage and integrate CoR into your current systems.

 

That said, if you do have any questions – please do not hesitate to reach out to us. If a five-minute conversation will get you on the right track, we would love to assist. If you need more assistance, this is something we can also support.

 

Source: https://www.nhvr.gov.au/safety-accreditation-compliance/chain-of-responsibility

(NVR: Chain of Responsibility)

 

Prosecutions: 2017 Summary for NSW & Victoria

Let’s face it, business leaders and safety professionals all play the same game: Maximising profits, without establishing or endorsing operations that will cause harm to their workers or the public. Due diligence is about collecting information to allow informed decisions to be made. As such, workplace prosecutions are something that health and safety practitioners, and business leaders alike, should maintain currency of to identify trends and ensure past situations are not repeated.

 

For the third year in a row, Action OHS Consulting has taken some time to collate and review the data available from WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW to support you in influencing key stakeholders within your organisation and assisting your business to make informed decisions with respect to its health and safety program.

 

This article provides an overview of the prosecutions for 2015, 2016 and 2017 calendar years.

 

Prosecutions: Numbers and Related Legislation

Calendar year 2017 saw a total of 105 prosecutions against the Victorian health and safety legislation, whilst in NSW the number of prosecutions was 28. When the past three years are compared, there has been a 23% increase in Victoria. Whilst over the same period, there has been a 46% reduction in the prosecutions that have occurred in NSW.

Within Victoria:

  • 97 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • 2 prosecution were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
  • 6 prosecution involved both the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007

Whilst 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 2018 and beyond.

Within NSW:

  • 27 prosecutions were recorded against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  • 1 prosecutions was recorded against the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011

Whilst there was one (1) prosecution against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 in 2016, with the maximum timeframe for prosecution outcomes in 2017 being 3 years and 11 months – this may signal a complete transition in NSW to prosecutions against the harmonised legislation, following the 2000 Act being superseded as of 1 January 2012.

The timeframe for the prosecutions outcomes from 2017, 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 2017 prosecution outcomes reported by SafeWork NSW & WorkSafe Victoria.

 

Prosecutions: An Overview of the Health and Safety Fines Issued

Year on year, the average fine and median fine increased in NSW. Whilst in Victoria only the median fine increased with the average fine staying around $85,000. The average and median fines were greater in NSW.

In NSW each prosecution resulted in a monetary fine. In Victoria 88 fines were issued (83% of prosecutions). When considering total costs (e.g. court costs, court funds, etc.) all prosecutions were financially impacted.

In addition to the fines, WorkSafe Victoria issued 10 Enforceable Undertakings in 2017 which equates to 10% of prosecutions. This is compared to the 6 and 7 issued in 2015 and 2016 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. EUs will typically guide and direct the business being prosecuted to improve its health and safety program.

With respect to fines, the maximum fines for both Victoria and NSW increased year on year. The maximum fines issued to a business were associated with the following events:

  • During asphalt resurfacing works, a company engaged a traffic control company to perform the traffic management operations at the workplace and a separate company to supply a sweeper vehicle and driver for the resurfacing works. A traffic management worker was struck and killed (as they were aligning bollards to separate live traffic from the resurfacing) by the sweeper vehicle when it breached the exclusion zone and reversed into him without warning – Victoria: $1,300,000.

The background: The sweeper vehicle had previously narrowly missed two workers at the workplace on two separate occasions when it breached exclusion zones without warning. The sweeper vehicle was driven in reverse in the work zone when unnecessary and persons on foot at the workplace were unaware of the movements of the sweeper vehicle. Spotters had been provided for other mobile plant operating in the area but no spotters were assigned to the sweeper vehicle. The offender’s induction to the workplace did not address the dangers posed by the sweeper vehicle reversing on a busy site and there was no Safe Work Method Statement setting out safe procedures for moving or setting up bollards. The offender also failed to supervise effectively, or at all, the operation of the sweeper vehicle and the movements of persons on foot in the vicinity of the sweeper vehicle.

The outcome: There is a requirement to supervise and manage contracted parties. In this instance, there was a risk of death or serious injury as a result of the unsafe operation of the sweeper vehicle at the workplace.

 

  • On 19 June 2014 a worker suffered serious injuries following an electric shock as a result of working in close proximity to high voltage overhead power lines – NSW: $1,000,000.

 

With respect to the Victorian prosecution, it confirms the requirement for organisations to supervise and manage the work of contracted parties, and their interactions onsite. In this case, the court found the primary contractor should have had more control over the day-to-day supervision of the work activities, and reviewed Safe Work Method Statements. The management of contractors will vary between contractor engagements, and will depend on a number of factors. One thing is certain, you must have a clear management plan. If you are not sure what this plan looks like in your organisation, this outcome suggests that you should seek advice.

 

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 2017, 3% and 19% of prosecutions were issued to workers in Victoria and NSW respectively – equating to 3 and 5 prosecutions respectively. This is a reduction in the distribution of worker related prosecutions from 2016.

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

In NSW there were five (5) workers prosecuted:

  • Worker suffered serious head injuries when he fell approximately 11 metres while lopping a tree – NSW: $80,000.
  • A worker was fatally injured when he came into contact with the tracks of an excavator at a waste sorting facility – NSW: $60,000. Note: The corporate defendant was fined $300,000.
  • A visitor to a residential property suffered serious burns when an explosion and fireball occurred as a result of bitumen laying works – NSW: $40,000. Note: The corporate defendant was fined $160,000.
  • A 20 year old labourer fell approximately 11 metres off a roof of a house after being hit by a swinging branch cut from a tree, suffering a fractured shoulder from the fall – NSW: $20,000.
  • A SafeWork NSW Inspector observed a worker operating a forklift without wearing a seatbelt (at Flemington Sydney Markets). The worker was issued with a Penalty Notice for failure to wear personal protective equipment (being a seatbelt) – NSW: $1,000.

This is compared to the maximum fine being issued in Victoria which was $15,000.00 plus costs of $2,000.00. In this instance the prosecution was associated with the following event:

  • A company secretary and shareholder with a 21 year old apprentice were unloading floor sheeting which had been craned onto the second floor trusses of a partially constructed apartment building. The trusses collapsed onto the first floor, with both floors collapsing to the ground. The apprentice was fatally injured. There was no safe system of work for unloading the sheeting onto the second floor trusses to determine whether those trusses were capable of bearing the load – Victoria: $180,000.
  • WorkSafe Inspectors attended a construction site and charged a self-employed builder with five offences for failing to ensure that persons were not exposed to risks to health and safety arising from his undertaking (including fall from heights, unsecured site and untested and tagged electrical equipment) – Victoria: $10,000.00 and ordered to pay costs in the amount of $2,500.00
  • An incident was reported to WorkSafe. That afternoon two Inspectors and one Investigator attended the site. During the course of their visit, the offender gave a wrong name to an Inspector, hindered an Inspector by refusing to answer relevant questions, acted in an intimidating and threatening manner by aggressively striking metal with a hammer, saying he hated them and made threats of violence, pushed an Inspector, and ordered the Inspectors to get out of the workshop. The offender was charged with offences related to assault, intimidation and hindrance/obstruction of an Inspector and providing a false name to an Inspector – $1,000.00 and ordered to pay costs of $3,038.05.

 

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 2017, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria, are outlined below.

 

These criteria are consistent with 2015 and 2016, with the exception of “Failure to notify VWA of a notifiable incident” being associated with 16% of all Victorian health and safety prosecutions in 2015 and “Unguarded plant” and “Failure to conduct a risk/hazard identification” being included on this list in 2016, being aligned with 14% and 12% of all Victorian health and safety prosecutions.

The introduction of “Failure to provide a safe workplace” places a clear duty on workplaces to understand their operations, the hazards associated with their work, and ensure that the established controls are implemented. In addition, the increase in “High risk construction work” along with with “Falls/work at height offences” aligns with WorkSafe Victoria’s focus on high risk industries.

Other criteria noteworthy to report on includes:

  • “Traffic Management” as this criteria has been aligned with between 5% and 8% of prosecutions during 2015, 2016 and 2017;
  • “Failure to prepare a SWMS”, as this is new to the list in 2017 at 8%, and aligns with the increased activity in the construction space as outlined above; and
  • “Inexperienced employee” returning to the list after no being included in 2016 at 6%. This should not be limited to just “young” workers.

During 2017 and into the first-half of 2018, Action OHS Consulting did observe a rise in inbound calls for support, associated with improvement notices being issued by WorkSafe Victoria regarding these three criteria.

Failure to provide a safe system of work, safe working environment and information, instruction, training or supervision were associated with one quarter of all prosecutions. This outlines the requirement for workplaces to actively:

  • Assess their workplace risks. Consider listing all foreseeable hazards in the workplace, and document the current controls that have been established by your workplace. If “all” seems too hard, try and select the “Top 5” hazards – with respect to their potential to cause serious harm. List the controls that you have in place. Speak internally and look externally, is there anything that has been missed, or something that others do? Yes? Document the additional control strategies into an Action Plan and plan how these can be implemented into your operations.
  • 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.
  • Consider 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 those you are about to engage to understand how they will maintain that safe working environment that you have established. Let them know what you need them to do, and ask them what they need you to do, to help them be safe while working with you.
  • 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.
  • 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 the data on prosecutions, we would be more than happy to share an unlocked copy of the data with you – simply Contact Us. Alternatively, send an email to info@actionohs.com.au, or phone 1300 101 OHS (647) explaining you’d like a copy of the prosecutions data.

The War on Safety Webinar Series

Recognising a pressing need for small and medium sized businesses to access us­­­eful and targeted advice about health and safety, Action OHS Consulting has developed a free four-part webinar series titled the War on Safety to assist. It launches 8 August 2018. 

 

Since this webinar series is now over – we’re offering access to the recordings. Interested? Click here.

 

We were inspired by the ABC’s War on Waste program… and threw a little spin on our own title. Yes, we want to catch your attention. Because safety is important. 

 

The series aims to fight through the perceived complexity of health and safety laws to provide free resources, practical tips and an understandable interpretation of the legislation.

 

We’ve had a lot of feedback that the title of the webinar series is a little dramatic! But it really does represent the frustrations of many small businesses out there”, says Director and Principal OHS Consultant, Craig Salter.

 

“Generally, SMEs think they need to adopt a big business approach to safety, and as such, become overwhelmed by where to start. This often means that they sit on their hands and hope nothing goes wrong. Through our interactions, we regularly hear from SMEs that they don’t know where to turn to for information or support. This is really why we’ve designed much of our business around supporting these types of businesses, and why we’ve developed initiatives like this webinar series to assist”.

 

After working with over 500 Australian businesses over the last five years, Action OHS Consulting has designed the series based on the many frustrations and challenges SMEs experience when trying to comply with the laws.

 

Armed with over 50 years of collective knowledge, the consultants at Action OHS Consulting will deliver quick 30-minute webinars providing much needed insight on exactly how SMEs can manage their health and safety duties to work in line with the legislation, and importantly protect their people from harm.

 

The series will debunk the misconceptions commonly associated with good workplace health and safety practice. At the end of the series, businesses will have the knowledge and confidence to establish a safety system suitable for their business.

 

Action OHS Consulting will co-host the series with their sister organisation Safety Champion – a software solution purposely built for the SME market.

 

Webinar Schedule

All webinars will commence at 11am AEST

 

8 August 2018Planning for casualties

How to develop a safety program

 

Registrations closed
12 September 2018Can I burn them up?

Understanding the safety documents you need

 

Registrations closed
10 October 2018Who are my allies?

Where to find free, useful resources

 

Registrations closed
14 November 2018Now let’s get that army moving

How to make safety business as usual

 

Registrations closed

Safety Champion Software | Increased success and growth in 2018

The Action OHS Consulting team has developed a cloud-based OHS software solution that supports businesses with health and safety management and compliance. With over 250 workplaces already using the system – including a number of Australian-based global retailers reaching beyond Australia into New Zealand, Asia, UK, and USA – the solution is seeing considerable success and growth into 2018.

 

Why?

Because, importantly, it is a solution that not only speaks to safety professionals but also to businesses without dedicated health and safety personnel or resources.

 

How does it work for non-health and safety people?

The solution comes with over 100 ready-to-go templates and workflows – including a complete and fully configurable Safety Manual, which has been aligned with the international standard to provide guidance to businesses about what tasks to complete. But what’s more, as a health and safety consulting company, our experienced consultants can ensure that these configurable health and safety documents are aligned with the needs of any business. This ensures that the implementation of the system is practical, appropriate and clear for a non-health and safety person. 

It is here where Safety Champion sets itself apart from the other software products that are available. Safety Champion is more than just software. It is a holistic solution developed by health and safety professionals, which can guide businesses towards better health and safety practices. The Action OHS Consulting team are on the ground working with Australian businesses every day. We have seen the frustrations businesses experience trying to comply with the laws and we know what is needed.

 

“We know you want Safety Manuals to ensure consistency in practices, and we know that you want guidance on what tasks or activities you need to complete – whether this be to manage compliance, investigations post incident, notification on training, insurance or chemical safety data sheet expiry. So, we have built these into Safety Champion for you. It’s simple.”

 

So, essentially, Safety Champion was created to replace the reliance on the Safety Manual – which we often observe is sitting on a shelf, collecting dust and not being used by anyone!

We know that the large majority of people want to do the right thing. But, historically, the problem has been knowing what the right thing is. To ensure ongoing sustainability, we have aimed to build in independence. Safety Champion will ensure that that your health and safety system can be managed by you, and will be followed through even if you don’t have access to a safety officer or one of our consultants.

 

Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t! Interested in finding out more about Safety Champion OHS Software? Simply fill out a Contact Us request and one of our experienced and qualified health and safety consultants will be in contact.

A FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULT

We aim to make safety easier and more accessible to all people. So, let's book you in for a free 1/2hr session with one of our experienced Safety Consultants. We can discuss your challenges and provide you with some clear advice for next steps. We look forward to meeting you. *Limited to Australia only.