OHS Blog

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.



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.

Job Opportunity – OHS Consultant (VIC) [closing 5 April 2017]

We have an exciting opportunity for a safety consultant looking to apply their skill and learn how to become an effective safety practitioner to join our team. Whilst this is a junior / entry consulting position, you will be tasked with supporting key clients which include a mix of small- and medium-sized organisations, government departments and a number of Australia’s most iconic businesses. In addition you will be exposed to, and have the ability to support and influence the direction of our cloud-based safety software solution Safety Champion Software. This exciting opportunity to join the Action OHS Consulting team and offers the chance to become a key team member as we transition to a medium enterprise.

Who we are: Action OHS Consulting is a health and safety consulting business and software development firm that delivers operational and strategic support, advice and solutions to our clients primarily in Victoria and NSW. In addition, we have been approved to deliver WorkSafe Victoria’s Approved Health and Safety Representative (HSR) Training. An overview of some of our current and past clients can be found here – Action OHS Consulting Clients.

Your Key Responsibilities: You will be working directly with small- and medium-sized organisations to provide operational support to assist them to address their health and safety legislative needs. This may include:

  • Developing Health and Safety Documentation (e.g. Policy and Procedures)
  • Developing Safe Work Method Statements / Safe Operating Procedures across a range of industries (e.g. manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, etc.)
  • Consulting with clients regarding the development of documentation
  • Facilitating/Leading Risk Assessments
  • Undertaking Workstation / Ergonomic Assessments
  • Leading the commissioning of our cloud-based software Safety Champion into workplaces
  • Supporting Lead Auditors undertake Safety Audits and Safety Gap Analysis Reviews.

You will be supported throughout your employment, working under the direction of our Senior Consultants until you have the skills and confidence to support the client yourself.

Crucial to your success in this role will be your ability to effectively: communicate, problem solve and influence. In addition, you will have: excellent attention to detail, effective writing skills and have the capability to work to deadlines. Please advise how you address these “softer-skills” in your cover letter.


This position will provide you with an opportunity to learn and develop your skills as an OHS Practitioner. In addition, you will have the ability to directly contribute to the day-to-day running of an incredibly successful and forward thinking OHS consulting business. An amazing growth  opportunity.


Qualifications and Knowledge: As this is a junior consulting role in health and safety, we anticipate that the candidate will have either:

  • 2 years or more, OHS experience + Cert IV OHS; or
  • Tertiary Qualifications in OHS.

Qualifications that will be highly regarded include, one or more of the following:

  • Tertiary Qualifications in an Allied Health or Human Movement discipline
  • Lead OHS Management System Auditor Training
  • Certificate IV Training and Assessment.

Previous experience working in consulting, Return-to-Work and Injury Management, or self-insurance would be beneficial.

Salary Package: $65,000 to $90,000 based on a combination of qualifications and past experience.

The role is available for applicants seeking a full-time or a part-time role. Those seeking a part-time role should be able to provide a minimum of 3 days per week and provide flexible working arrangements to suit organisational and client needs.

How to Apply: Apply now by sending your resume and cover letter to info@actionohs.com.au by COB Wednesday 5 April 2017.

If you have any questions regarding this role, or wish to find out how Action OHS Consulting and Safety Champion Software continues to develop excellent relationships with our clients to assist them achieve safety excellence please do not hesitate to contact us | 1300 101 647.


Health and Safety Prosecutions: 2016 Summary for Victoria & NSW

Workplace prosecutions are something that health and safety practitioners should maintain oversight of to identify trends. This article provides an overview of the prosecutions listed by WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW for Calendar Year 2016 as of 28 February 2017.


During 2016, over $10,000,000.00 in fines were issued to businesses and workers in Victoria and NSW following breaches to health and safety legislation.


Prosecutions: Numbers and Related Legislation

Calendar Year 2016 saw a total of 91 health and safety prosecutions in Victoria and 35 prosecutions in NSW. When compared to 2015, this is an increase in Victoria (6) and reduction in NSW (17).

Total Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016

Within Victoria:

  • 83 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 only;
  • 1 prosecution was recorded against the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 only;
  • 3 prosecutions were recorded against the OHS Regulations 2007 only;
  • 3 prosecutions involved both the OHS Act 2004 and the OHS Regulations 2007; and
  • 1 prosecution involved both the OHS Act 2004 and the Dangerous Goods Act 1985.

In addition, there were 25 prosecutions associated with the Workers Compensation legislation.

Within NSW:

  • 1 prosecution was recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 (this is compared to 21 prosecutions in 2015); and
  • 22 prosecutions were recorded against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The reduction in the prosecutions related to the OHS Act 2000 in NSW from 21 in calendar year 2015 to 1 in 2016 is related to this Act being superseded as of 1 January 2012 (5 years prior to 31 December 2016). Both the average and median time for a prosecution to occur in NSW (from the date of incident) where an outcome was established in 2016 was approximately 2 years and 8 months; the maximum time for prosecution being 5 years and 1 month (followed by 4 years and 2 months).


Prosecutions: An Overview of the Health and Safety Fines Issued

Year on year, both the average fine and median fine increased in both Victoria and NSW. The average fine exceeded $50,000 in both states. The average and median fines were greater NSW.

Average and Median Fine Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016

In NSW each prosecution resulted in a fine. In Victoria, 93 fines were issued. This equates to 80% of prosecutions resulting in a “financial” fine. This is compared to 69% of the prosecutions in 2015. When considering the total direct cost associated with the the prosecution (e.g. court costs being issued, court funds being assigned, etc.), all prosecutions in Victoria were financially impacted. Outside of issuing fines, WorkSafe Victoria issued 6 Enforceable Undertakings (this is compared to 7 Enforceable Undertakings being issued in 2015). In these cases, the 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 undertaking. Such scenarios ensure that the workplace implement agreed corrective actions.

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

  • The offender failed to provide a safe system of work which resulted in an employee being crushed by a trailer carrying a 20 foot shipping container when undertaking duties associated with his role – Victoria: $1,000,000.
  • A worker was fatally injured when he fell approximately 5 metres through a penetration at a construction site – NSW: $425,000.

Maximum Fine Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016


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 2016, 10% and 34% of prosecutions were issued to workers in Victoria and NSW respectively.

Distribution of Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016


The reason behind fines issued to workers in NSW being on average 382% greater than those issued to workers in Victoria may be associated with the harmonised health and safety legislation clearly defining:

  • (i) who the Officer within a business is; in addition to,
  • (ii) outlining the positive due-diligence duties placed on these officers.

Worker Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016

In NSW there were three (3) workers at the Officer level who were issued with fines greater than $50,000.00:

  • A worker was fatally injured when the tractor he was using to slash grass rolled over, crushing him – NSW: $160,000;
  • A worker was fatally injured when he fell approximately 5 metres through a penetration at a construction site – NSW: $85,500; and,
  • A worker was seriously injured when he fell 3-4 meters to the ground at a residential construction site.

This is compared to the maximum fine being issued in Victoria which was $15,000 plus costs of $2,000. In this instance the prosecution was associated with the following event:

  • An employee was performing unscheduled maintenance on plant and equipment that did not have adequate guarding. The employee had not received any information, instruction or training with respect to maintenance. He sustained a partial amputation of the right arm.

Interestingly, with respect to prosecutions against the Workers Compensation legislation in Victoria, in addition to workers being required to pay back any money accessed via fraudulent activity (which equated to a total of approximately $700,000), of the 19 prosecutions, 43% of workers were issued with a suspended imprisonment sentence. The average fine was $1,977.60.


What Criteria are Regularly Associated with Health and Safety Prosecutions?

With respect to the criteria/codes that lead to the prosecution – the top 10 criteria, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria, are outlined below.

Codes for Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016_Table

Codes for Health and Safety Prosecutions 2016

These criteria are consistent with 2015, with the exception of “Failure to conduct a risk/hazard identification” being added to the list and “Failure to notify VWA of a notifiable incident” being removed from the list.

The introduction of “Failure to conduct a risk/hazard identification” places a clear duty on workplaces to establish explicit and robust processes that identify hazardous situations. Whilst many businesses can demonstrate an ability to manage risk once a hazard has been identified, this criteria requires workplaces to proactively look for hazards that are associated with their workplace activities.

In addition to these criteria, other criteria noteworthy to report on includes Traffic Management and Forklifts both being associated with 8% of prosecutions. During 2016, internally, Action OHS Consulting observed a rise in improvement notices being issued by WorkSafe Victoria due to new client contact as a result of forklift use and traffic management practices.


Lessons your Business can Take from these Reported Health and Safety Prosecutions

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. To improve your safety performance, and learn from “errors” from the past, workplaces should proactively:

  • Assess their workplace risks. Consider listing all foreseeable hazards in the workplace, and document the current controls that have been established by your workplace. At this time, consider additional control strategies. Document these additional control strategies into an Action Plan to support implementation.
  • Consider safety as part of your procurement process. Don’t make safety an afterthought.
  • Consider safety when engaging contractors. Workplaces often engage contractors to support processes that they are not familiar with, which means new hazards may be introduced to the workplace. Prior to engaging contractors, along with cost, seek information from those you are about to engage to ensure that they can maintain the safe working environment that you have established.
  • 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.
  • Identify how you will manage implementation. Spreadsheets and folders can be effective if you are organised, however, as technology solutions evolve, web-based platforms such as Safety Champion Software will support, guide and remind you when deadlines and/or key milestones approach.

Apart from one of your workers being injured, a workplace incident and/or prosecution can have a negative impact on operations. Many large organisations, as part of their contractor and/or supplier programs, require businesses to report on their health and safety performance in their Tender applications or Invitations to Supply. A prosecution is likely to rule your organisation out of future engagements. In addition, a workplace that has been prosecuted may see this impact their brand. Not only may this see the general public decide to purchase from your competitors, it may also see your ability to access and retain talent damaged where workers have the ability to “choose” their employer of choice.

If you are like the team at Action OHS Consulting and Safety Champion Software and get a real kick out of interrogating data to make sense of trends; a link to the health and safety prosecutions in Victoria and NSW for 2016 can be found by following this link: Consolidated Raw Data from Victoria and NSW Health and Safety Prosecutions: Calendar Year 2016. This information was compiled by our data analysis from the information available at both the WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW websites.

If you would like more detail on our analysis, or provide us with an overview of your analysis or the trends that you see, please don’t hesitate to send an email to info@actionohs.com.au or contact us by telephone on 1300 101 OHS | 1300 101 647.


www.actionohs.com.au | info@actionohs.com.au | 1300 101 OHS | 1300 101 647

OHS Consulting Opportunities (Melb, VIC)

Are you interested in a health and safety consulting role where you get to role your sleeves up, get your hands dirty and make a difference?

You will be a self-starter who has a demonstrated ability to provide both considered and proactive health and safety advice. Your decisions will be based on reason, with a focus on operational and commercial impacts, legislative compliance, not just “the safety stick”.

Excellent verbal and written communication skills are essential – it is the basis of what we do and what health and safety consultation is built-on. As you would expect, the ability to think on your feet and multi-task will always be an advantage in the consulting environment.

The positions that we have available, call for driven people and people are invested in making a difference. The quality of our work has resulted in rapid growth which means we are in the process of considering roles for consultants to support our growing list of SMEs, government, publicly listed and privately owned businesses.

Attitudes which we are looking for? Great ones! Attitude is how we have built our team, so if you’re excited to work with us, that’s a great start.

Proven experience and skills that we would like to see include:

  • Actively working within an operational WHS/OHS role (or roles!); and
  • Principal and/or Lead OHSMS Auditor experience; or
  • Safety Management System Development; or
  • An Allied Health (i.e. Physio, OT, Exercise Physiology) background to support our ongoing delivery of workstation ergonomics assessments and manual handling advice.

Skills wise, qualifications we would see you having:

  • Tertiary Qualifications in OHS;
  • Membership with an industry body such as Exemplar Global , SIA, AIOH, HFESA,  ESSA;
  • OHSMS Auditor Training;
  • Cert IV in TAE.

We have offices located in Sydney and Melbourne. All roles are based in Melbourne (Richmond). While you will be based in Melbourne, you will need to be prepared to travel using your own vehicle and/or occasionally staying overnight. The number of roles we have, and what these roles look like are not set in stone; full-time part-time or freelance – we will consider them all. Our goal is to find the right person or people to support our amazing clients, not to try and fit a mould.

If you would like to apply, or gather more information regarding the opportunity; please do not hesitate to contact us: info@actionohs.com.au | 1300 101 647.


Building a Safe Workplace Together

www.actionohs.com.au | info@actionohs.com.au | 1300 101 OHS | 1300 101 647

Prosecutions: January to April 2016 for NSW & Victoria

Workplace prosecutions are something that health and safety practitioners should maintain oversight of to identify trends and maintain awareness of foreseeable hazards. This article provides an overview of the prosecutions listed by WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW between January and April 2016.


Prosecutions: Numbers and Related Legislation

The first 4 months of 2016 saw a total of 42 health and safety prosecutions in Victoria and a total of 6 prosecutions in NSW.


Within Victoria:

  • 40 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • 1 prosecution was recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
  • 1 prosecution involved both the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Dangerous Goods Act 1985.

Within NSW:

  • 1 prosecution was recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000
  • 5 prosecutions were recorded against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.


Prosecutions: An Overview of Fines

The average fine in both states came in at $83,000. The median fines varied significantly. The maximum fine issued by each state regulator is as follows:

  • Victoria – $750,000
  • NSW – $187,500.



In NSW each prosecution resulted in a monetary fine. In Victoria 40 fines were issued (95% of the total prosecutions). In addition to the fines, WorkSafe Victoria issued 2 Enforceable Undertakings. In these cases, the 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 undertaking. Such scenarios ensure that the workplace implement agreed corrective actions.


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

With respect to the criteria/codes that lead to prosecution – the top 10 criteria, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria, are outlined below.

  1. Failure to provide a safe working environment – 43%
  2. Failure to provide a safe system of work – 38%
  3. Failure to provide information, instruction, training or supervision – 26%
  4. Falls/work at height offences – 21%
  5. Crush injuries 19%
  6. Failure to conduct a risk/hazard assessment – 17%
  7. Guarding – 17%
  8. Failure to conduct a risk/hazard identification – 12%
  9. Failure to provide and maintain plant – 12%
  10. Unguarded plant – 12%.


Prosection Criteria-Code_Jan-April 2016


Combined, failure to provide a safe system of work and safe working environment resulted in over one third of the prosecutions. This outlines the requirement for workplaces to actively:

  • Assess their workplace risks.
  • Consider safety when procuring equipment – how effective is guarding?
  • Considering safety when engaging contractors.

It is noteworthy to comment that six (6) of the prosecutions in Victoria were associated with the failure of the workplace to isolate energy when repairing and/or cleaning equipment. All workplaces that have plant and equipment should strongly consider establishing Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) in consultation with their operators, and ensure that their workers and contractors have been trained and competent in these.


Prosecutions: Of Interest

Some prosecutions that may be of interest may include:

  • Once the loading of a truck was complete, the truck driver asked the employee operating the forklift to lift him up onto the truck on the tynes of the forklift. The forklift operator stated that he knew it was the wrong thing to do but he did it anyway. Whilst being lifted, the truck driver’s right hand became entangled in the mast and mast channel of the forklift. The truck driver suffered bruising and some lacerations to his hand, but did not receive treatment as an inpatient in hospital. The offender pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $18,000 and to pay costs of $3,895.
  • A workplace was transferring a 660 litre bin loaded with cardboard through an Automated Car Park Station. While waiting in the car park, an elderly women was struck by the corner of a 660 litre wheeled waste storage bin loaded with cardboard. The woman was knocked to the floor. The offender pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $50,000.00 and to pay costs of $4,564.00. It was reasonably practicable for the offender to control the risks to health and safety associated with the task by ensuring bins were not overfilled with cardboard, using a spotter when transporting bins through public areas and scheduling of loaded bin movements out of hours to minimise risks to the public.
  • A manufacturing company that produces materials for the construction industry was sentenced to pay a fine of $40,000.00 and to pay costs of $3,975.00 following a worker breaking their leg after the 500 kg material collapsed while undertaking the task. The “task” involved two (2) employees lifting and loading a suspended material weighing 500 kilograms onto a flatbed truck. There was no safe system of work associated with the task of lifting, transporting and loading facade modules at the workplace. It was reasonably practicable for the offender to control the risk by implementing a safe operating procedure for lifting, transporting and loading materials which included the identification of the risks and the associated control measures.
  • A company that provides cleaning services to various businesses via engagement of subcontracted cleaners. A cleaner was engaged to clean at a meat and poultry production business. The cleaner was cleaning a mixer (which had an interlocked grate at the top, but access via the exit point at the bottom) which mixed meat. The cleaning company failed to ensure that the workplace was safe, by failing to ensure that the workplace where the cleaning was to take place provided adequate information, instruction and training to the subcontractors, in relation to the lockout/tagout system for isolation of the mixer prior to dismantling and cleaning it, and failed to prohibit its subcontractors from working until such adequate information, instruction and training was provided. The cleaner was cleaning the mixer with a hose and a scourer and put his hand with the scourer through the bottom opening to remove the debris. The mixer began to operate and his left hand was caught by a rotating auger, severing three fingers, only two of which were able to be surgically re-attached. The offender pleaded guilty and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 and to pay costs of $7,000.
  • An employee, who was given the job of preparing the rig for work, was unfamiliar with its controls and had never installed or been trained in how to install the 1.8 metre leader extension which had to be fitted to the mast. Despite reporting his concerns to his supervisor, work on preparing the rig continued. As a result, 10 of the 16 bolts needed to secure the leader extension to the rig were not fitted. Later that day the deceased was working at the top of the rig when the mast snapped causing the deceased to fall to the ground, along with a 20 metre section of the mast. A conviction was imposed and a fine of $750,000.00.
  • An employee suffered serious arm and hand injuries which required hospitalisation after attempting to clean a cannelloni dough mixer. The guarding on the dough mixer did not prevent access to the danger area, due to the interlock device that was fitted not isolating power to the rotating paddle inside the feeder hopper. There were no policies, procedures or instructions for the cannelloni dough mixer. The incident was not reported to WorkSafe immediately or in writing in 48 hours, and the incident scene was not preserved. The offender pleaded guilty and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000.00 and costs of $2,557.00.
  • A 15 year old employee of a labour hire business was driving a forklift. Three children (two of whom had no prior farm work experience), were left unsupervised and the forklift was accessible to those three children in that the keys were left in the ignition. There was a risk of serious injury or death to employees using the forklift without being licenced, and that leaving the keys in the forklift allowed unauthorised access to the forklift. The deceased was killed when the forklift he was driving tipped over causing fatal injuries. The offender pleaded guilty and was to pay a fine of $450,000.

It is worth mentioning that 10% of the prosecutions were the result of workplaces that failed to notify WorkSafe Victoria that a notifiable incident that occurred in their workplace, and 7% of the prosecutions were the result of workplaces that failed to preserve the incident site. Both of these requirements are expressed clearly within Section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. If your workplace is not familiar with what incidents require notification, or, if there is no reference in your procedures on how to manage a notifiable incident – this is something you should consider reviewing immediately. Please Contact Us if you require direction.

Finally, apart from legal fees, fines and a negative prosecution result, a conviction can comprise future work opportunities and the ability for your organisation to participate in tenders. Why? Many contractor agreements these days request that you provide information outlining your:

  • Hazard management processes (i.e. SWMSs, JSAs, etc.);
  • Worker competencies (e.g. licences, etc.);
  • Insurance details (i.e. Workers Compensation, Public Indemnity and Professional Liability); and,
  • Prosecution history (from convictions to regulator notices received).

Safe workplace practices will reduce your workplace’s likelihood of incident and/or injury, and support your workplace growing. The output being a productive workplace that provides workers with both confidence and job security.


www.actionohs.com.au | info@actionohs.com.au | 1300 101 OHS | 1300 101 647

Planning: Safety in Design – When and What to Consider?

The 2nd ‘Safety in Design’ Conference was held recently in Melbourne during May 2016. As the name suggests, the topics discussed on the day centered on the importance of considering and planning for safety in areas such as:

  • process and functional safety (e.g. when designing plant and/or guarding);
  • construction of new and/or refurbishment of buildings;
  • purchase of new plant; and
  • designing guarding for current plant (i.e. retro-fitting) – which has been raised by a number of our clients in recent times.

The presenters focused on the challenges of safety in design and the importance of balancing the risks and costs of today, whilst anticipating the needs of tomorrow through a “whole of life” design review. Whole of life considerations that are often forgotten about, include:

  • repair and maintenance;
  • cleaning;
  • training and licence requirements;
  • monitoring requirements (e.g. noise and/or dust); or
  • decommissioning, etc.

A key message from the conference was that safety needs to be considered at the concept stage, when decisions are made about the ‘intended purpose’ and/or ‘required deliverable’, as opposed to safety being considered only after the design commences. The following example was shared which gave this thinking some perspective:

If safety in design was considered after a decision was made to have a rail-road crossing, the safety considerations will be specific to the design, and in line with the “agreed deliverable”. The safety aspects of the design would make the rail-road crossing as safe as possible – it would include booms, lights, signals, etc. However, wouldn’t it be better if safety in design was considered at the concept stage? If the “goal” was to prevent cars and trains impacting, safer solutions such as a bridge and/or underpass may have been an option for consideration.

Being consulted with in the concept phased resonates daily in the workplaces we support. We recently had a client contact us to gather advice about what they needed to ensure was in place prior to purchasing a forklift, due to their walkie stacker: (1) not being able to access the top level of racking, and (2) not being able to reach-forward. After reviewing the “efficiency” that could be generated across a small floor area where load shifting occurred for less than 2 hours per day, against the hazards that would need to be controlled if a forklift was introduced (e.g. mobile plant moving at faster speeds, licencing requirements, fuel onsite – resulting in the management of hazardous chemicals, etc.), the client started to investigate walkie stacker options that provided the result / goal they were after.

Safety in design (and procurement) should be considered when the “goals” of the design are being considered, not once the “finalised deliverable” has been prescribed.


Consideration of safety in the concept phase will support elimination, or provide the best opportunity to significantly reduce risk of whole of life design issues with an item of plant or a building. From our view point as health and safety consultants, past experience continues to demonstrate that trying to manage and reduce hazards post implementation can:

  • be financially expensive. Retro-fitting requires a new plan(s), sourcing materials and trades for smaller/one-off jobs.
  • be resource demanding. Someone at your workplace (or many), will be required to focus their time on a project that could have been resolved earlier. Their time will be utilised due to their involvement in supporting risk assessments, construction, managing contractors, etc. – everything can’t be “outsourced”. In addition, time will be spent training your workers in the new practices and/or processes.
  • impact safety culture. Your workers may feel that their voices are not considered as “known” hazards continue to reappear; as opposed to be managed better, or eliminated.

We understands that there is incredible pressure on business owners to look for cost saving measures when purchasing new plant, leasing new premises, or refurbishing current premises in order to remain profitable. Therefore, managing risk by considering safety in the concept phase of the design, when project “goals” are being agreed on makes absolute sense.


www.actionohs.com.au | info@actionohs.com.au | 1300 101 OHS | 1300 101 647

Training: Improving the Impact of your Training – Blocked vs Random Practice

Training is critical for all organisations to ensure that workers have the appropriate knowledge and skill to competently complete the inherent requirements of their role safely.

What training looks like varies considerably and will often depend on the training requirement. We often ask the question to our clients “what consideration did you make when developing the training program in your workplace?” Often, their response is limited. This article takes a look at “blocked” practice versus “random” practice.

In a sporting context, everyone has been exposed to blocked and random practice. Think about going to the golf driving range, shooting a basketball or netball. When training to execute the skill, do you think it would be better to act out Scenario A 10 times, before moving onto Scenario B for 10 attempts, and then onto Scenario C for 10 attempts (this approach is referred to as blocked practice); or, would it be better to act out Scenario A once, Scenario B once and Scenario C once and repeat this 10 times (this is referred to as random practice)?

The answer is dependent on whether you were assessing the performance in the training, or the performance at a later date.

Blocked practice should produce better performance than random practice during the initial rehearsal/training.


Blocked practice is an effective way for the participant to “understand” the components of the individual skill. Once this skill is understood, it is random practice that facilitates the participant’s ability to retain the skill. 


Why? During random practice, the participant is required to fully focus on the skill and replay the entire motor pattern. Blocked practice sees the participant make small adjustments to the motor pattern, in line with how they executed the skill on the last occasion. In a “real” life situation, do you have the ability to make minor adjustments based on your last performance?

When designing effective training, consider the knowledge of the participants:

  • If the task is new for the worker(s), you may want to schedule training activities to transition from a blocked to a random approach when developing the training materials.
  • If it is re-training and the workers are familiar with the skill, you may want to schedule all training activities in line with random practice.

In addition, you will need to consider what do the attendees’ work tasks looks like? If their work requires constant variation in the task; random practice is likely to be more effective. Golf is a great example here, you often hear about players frustrated as to why their “form” at the driving range does not translate onto the golf course. The reason for this is, on the golf course they only get one shot/chance to execute the skill (and that shot counts). Whilst at the driving range, they implicitly make minor adjustments (to their motor pattern) between attempts, using the knowledge of their last attempt. This means that the consequence of errors is not as visible. It also means that the “form” they have described on the driving range, has been learnt from the adjustments they have made from their earlier shots during that practice session.

How can this be better managed? At the driving range, consider changing clubs or the scenario for each shot, train how you play. This is the same for training in the workplace – is there variation when your workers operate machines, or undertake certain activities?

To support learning, where appropriate, a key consideration for the person developing the training is to move away from a blocked approach to a randomised approach. Whilst challenging for your participants initially – it will improve their skills in the future.

Another aspect to consider is how your competency assessments are structured? If the operator can continue to attempt until they “pass”, does this demonstrate competency, or does this demonstrate that they have an ability to use the feedback provided from the knowledge of the last result? The importance of getting this right will depend on the impacts to your workplace of the “error”.


www.actionohs.com.au | info@actionohs.com.au | 1300 101 OHS | 1300 101 647

Technology: 10 Questions to Consider When Purchasing OHS Software

Businesses of all sizes struggle with managing their workplace safety responsibilities. When operations are busy, activities which have been initiated to ensure that the established risk controls are in place and working can often be forgotten. Let’s face it, there should be a reason why these activities have been scheduled, and if this reason is to protect the health and safety of workers, contractors or visitors, they should not be placed on the “to do later” list. Increased workloads, being “busy”, or “forgetting” is no justification.


At every workplace there should be a well understood reason for every health and safety task that is being undertaking. If the reason you are undertaking the task is not understood, maybe now is time to review those tasks, rather than just “forgetting” about them?



In addition to “tasks” being completed; the management of “the evidence” of tasks being completed is often unstructured.

Software can assist. Software does assist. It is common place now for OHS Software programs to automatically email the identified workplace stakeholders, with reminders of when important tasks are scheduled for completion. OHS Software programs should then provide the workplace with a way to manage the OHS record(s) on completion. The simplicity of OHS Software means that it is something that many workplaces are now considering to introduce to support the visibility of their OHS Program and establish workplace efficiencies.

Whilst there are many software applications on the market, all OHS Software is not the same. The majority of the OHS Software programs that are on the market are “commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)”. This means that they have been made, ready for sale to the public. It means that they are not developed specifically to a workplace – that includes your workplace. They have been designed to be implemented easily into workplaces with minimal customisation. This means that the “80-20 rule” should be considered (i.e. at a minimum, the OHS Software program should be able to effectively deliver 80% of the outputs you require). However, with careful planning and by following the considerations below, you should be in a position to elevate that 80 closer to 100 – by identifying the OHS Software program that is “more-right” for your workplace’s needs.

Procuring an OHS Software program should be considered a long-term relationship. To ensure that you get the right OHS Software program for your business, it is absolutely essential that you do your homework first. Listed below, in no particular order, are ten (10) questions you should consider, before purchasing a “web-based” OHS Software program:

  • Are you looking for an “OHS Software package” or “OHS Policy and Procedures”? OHS Software packages are effectively “frameworks”. This means that your workplace will be required to develop the OHS Policy and Procedures additional to the OHS Software licence. Some packages will provide a “Manual” that is in line with their OHS Software program (this is rare). If a Manual is provided, ask your supplier how much work will be required to align the Manual to meet your workplaces operational needs, and if any additional documentation may be required.
  • Are you looking at OHS Software or “Web-based” OHS Software? Besides being antiquated, OHS Software that is loaded onto individual computers (think the “old” Microsoft Office), does not have the “flexibility” of web-based OHS Software. The user is locked into being at their computer to access their OHS Management System. Web-based OHS Software will also allow users to access their OHS Management System anywhere, and on any device (where they have access to the internet). A bonus of web-based OHS Software is that the supplier should provide you with “free” automatic updates as the OHS Software develops – this cannot be said for Microsoft Office!
  • How easy is the OHS Software to use? This may sounds straight forward, but it is often overlooked as the procurement team gets caught up in the initial excitement of the “new” and “shinny” software program that is going to make “everyone’s” life easier. While some OHS Software packages may look great when demonstrated, it is important that you are considering/questioning:
    • if it provides the functionality you need?
    • does it address your business critical workplace’s needs?
    • if the user interface is clear and simple to navigate?
    • will your users, who may have varying levels of computer literacy, be able to easily use the OHS Software?
  • Are there limitations surrounding the number of workers (Users) who can access the OHS Software? The evidence tells us that health and safety is about the collective, not individuals, at a workplace. A number of OHS Software programs place limitations explicitly around the number of user licences a workplace has access to, or implicitly does this by “significant” increases in their pricing when multiple licences are requested. If there are limitations around the number of users who can access your OHS Software, ask the question…

…how will our workplace live the mantra that “safety is everyone’s responsibility”? 

  • Does the OHS Software have a lock-in period? If the OHS Software package effectively delivers all of the benefits that you signed-up to during the initial procurement, it makes sense that you would continue to use the software – right? As disclosed above, the majority of OHS Software is “Commercial off-the-shelf”, this means that the business you are looking to purchase the OHS Software from, often has not invested time in developing the software specifically for “your” workplace needs. This being the case, you should be very nervous of OHS Software suppliers that look to lock you into contract greater than 1 year. If the OHS Software: (i) behaves as promised; (ii) has effective help support; and, (ii) continues to improve in line with advances in technology, you will stay. For the majority of businesses, OHS Software does not need to be developed specifically for the organisation.
  • Can you access the OHS Software from Mobiles and Tablets? With so many organisations operating outside the traditional office setup; would workers being able to access your OHS Software from their mobile telephone and/or tablet be of benefit?
  • Does the OHS Software provide you with access to all Modules or just “some” Modules? All software can be a “tricky” to navigate. Whilst advertising a “starting” price, OHS Software providers will often charge additional fees that are “disproportional” to the initial outlay, for any extra modules that you identify in the future that could benefit your workplace as your safety program matures. Make sure you understand all potential future costs – even if you don’t think you will need them all right now. Running multiple systems due to cost, as we often see, is confusing and disorganised.
  • What does the OHS Software “Help” support look like? Before financially investing in an OHS Software system, you need to ensure that there is an easy way for questions and/or concerns that you have to be raised and managed. As a minimum, the OHS Software should provide you with access to:
    • a “Help” Support Manual.
    • the ability to raise issue either by email and/or telephone.
    • Note: It may also be in your best interest to understand if there is any cost associated with any help requests that you make.
  • What happens to “your” data if you decide that the OHS Software is no longer for you? Firstly, it is your data. Secondly, you have a legislative duty to maintain selected health and safety records. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that you have access to these. Can you export or download the data yourself? Or does the OHS Software provider charge you retrieval costs?
  • Does the OHS Software have compatibility with other IT Systems? All software should support efficiency. With workplaces typically having at least one IT Program established prior to implementing an OHS Software package, it is worth identifying how the OHS Software package can align with your current IT system(s)? For example, will you be required to manage employee information across multiple platforms (i.e. your payroll system and your OHS Software package)? Or will the two (2) packages be able to communicate with each other? If the OHS Software cannot directly communicate with other IT Programs you have installed, what other options have been provided to you to support efficiency? For example, is there the ability to import data?

This is by no means an exhaustive list and it should not cover the full breadth of your review. If you would like further support, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. With regards to additional considerations, we will look to provide more information in future blogs. If you have any feedback on your experience with procuring OHS Software, we would love to hear from you.


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Prosecutions: 2015 Summary for NSW & Victoria

Workplace prosecutions are something that health and safety practitioners should maintain oversight of to identify trends. This article provides an overview of the prosecutions listed by WorkSafe Victoria and Safe Work NSW for 2015 as of 15 March 2016.


Prosecutions: Numbers and Related Legislation

2015 saw a total of 85 health and safety prosecutions in Victoria and 52 prosecutions 52 in NSW.

Prosecutions NSW and VIC 2015_Updated MAR16

Within Victoria:

  • 80 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • 2 prosecutions were recorded against the Dangerous Goods Act 1985
  • 1 prosecution was recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
  • 1 prosecution involved both the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
  • 1 prosecution involved both the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Dangerous Goods Act 1985.

Within NSW:

  • 21 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000
  • 30 prosecutions were recorded against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  • 1 prosecution was against the Explosives Act 2003.

Interestingly, whilst the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 in NSW was superseded as of 1 January 2012, approximately 40% of the prosecutions listed in NSW during 2015 were against the superseded Act.


Prosecutions: An Overview of Fines

The average fine in both states exceeded $50,000. In NSW the average fine was only slightly greater when comparing between the current and superseded legislation; however, the amounts for both: (i) median fine ($80,000 v  $47,250), and (ii) the greatest fine (412,500 v $300,00), were greater when prosecuted against the current legislation. This is in line with the guidance that was provided on enactment, that penalties would increase when the harmonised Work Health and Safety Legislation was introduced.


Prosecutions Fines NSW and VIC 2015_Updated_MAR16


Prosecutions Fines NSW Median Max


In NSW each prosecution resulted in a monetary fine. In Victoria 59 fines were issued (69% of the total prosecutions). In addition to the fines, WorkSafe Victoria issued seven (7) Enforceable Undertakings. In these cases, the 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 undertaking. Such scenarios ensure that the workplace implement agreed corrective actions.


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

With respect to the criteria/codes that lead to prosecution – the top 10 criteria, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria, are outlined below.

  1. Failure to provide a safe system of work – 34%
  2. Guarding – 20%
  3. Failure to provide a safe working environment – 18%
  4. Failure to notify WSV of a notifiable incident – 16%
  5. Failure to provide and maintain plant – 16%
  6. Failure to provide information, instruction, training or supervision – 13%
  7. Falls/work at height offences – 13%
  8. Crush injuries – 12%
  9. Failure to conduct a risk/hazard assessment – 8%
  10. Failure to preserve incident site – 8%.


Prosecutions Criteria NSW and VIC 2015_Updated_MAR16

Combined, failure to provide a safe system of work and safe working environment resulted in over half of the prosecutions. This outlines the requirement for workplaces to actively:

  • Assess their workplace risks. Workplaces should consider listing all foreseeable hazards in the workplace, and document the current controls that have been implemented to support the management of the hazard. At this time, the workplace should consider additional/ alternative control strategies. If the risk associated with the hazard can be further mitigated, this should be documented with a Safety Action Plan developed to support implementation.
  • Consider safety when procuring equipment. Often safety is an afterthought. Considering safety prior to purchasing will better ensure that controls do not require retro-fitting and/or additional equipment is not required to manage the “new” hazard presented – both having financial implications.
  • Considering safety when engaging contractors. Workplaces often engage contractors to support processes that they are not familiar with, which means new hazards may be introduced to the workplace. Prior to engaging contractors, along with price, seek information from those you are about to engage to ensure that they can maintain that safe working environment you have established.

Guarding and maintenance of plant equates for over one third of prosecutions. Guarding is a high level control that ensures there is separation between workers (and their limbs) and moving parts. Management and supervisors should be undertaking regular walk-throughs to ensure that guarding is not overridden. The guarding that management and supervisor walk past is the fatality and/ or amputation that they accept. Where guarding has been removed, management and supervisors should talk with the operators to understand the basis for this. Are operational KPIs realistic? Can processes be reviewed? Is the plant fit for the purpose that the workplace wants? Is additional equipment required?

Worth a mention is the 16% of workplaces that failed to notify WorkSafe Victoria of the notifiable incident that occurred in their workplace and the 8% of workplaces that failed to preserve the incident site. Both of these requirements are expressed clearly within the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. If your workplace is not familiar with what incidents require notification, or there is no training or reference in your procedures on how to manage a notifiable incident – it is something you should consider reviewing immediately.

Finally, apart from legal fees, fines and a negative prosecution result, the lengthy duration of legal proceedings can impact workplace resources (e.g. with conflicting focuses between the prosecution and workplace safety). The impact also flows through to other areas of the business resulting in a negative safety culture, low morale amongst workers as well as the negative impact on business development due to ‘loss of faith/brand damage’ that is perceived by the general public.


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