Action OHS and Tree Mason work together for a safe storm clean up

In June 2021, severe storms swept across Victoria causing significant damage to property, infrastructure, and public spaces.


In the aftermath of the storm, the team from Tree Mason, an arboriculture business servicing North-Western Victoria, worked tirelessly to clear roads in their local area and restore safe access for the local community.


As the key arborist contractor for Macedon Ranges Shire Council (MRSC), Tree Mason were also supporting MRSC to clear key link roads throughout the shire.


Winds of up to 100km/h had resulted tens of thousands of trees down, inundating the local transfer stations. Unable to take the storm debris to the transfer stations for processing, the Tree Mason team had to take matters into their own hands.


The team began to stockpile and process fallen materials on their own site, which quickly transformed from a residential farming property into a large-scale forestry site. With multiple haul roads, sediment dams, large quantities of stockpiled materials and more than 250 truck movements per day, they realised that they needed additional support to establish and maintain a safe work environment.



Phil Neville, Senior OHS Consultant, explains that Tree Mason engaged Action OHS Consulting to provide on-site safety support.


“Given the project was already well established, we had to hit the ground running to help the project ‘catch up’. Our team attended site and set about identifying critical safety risks and current controls,” Phil said.


“To their credit, Tree Mason and MRSC were managing well, but with little formal process or records being documented.”


“We were able to support Tree Mason to develop and document critical safety management processes.”


Support included:


  • Site Safety and Environmental Management Plan
  • Project Risk Assessment
  • Emergency management and fire safety plans
  • Traffic and Vehicle Movement Plans
  • COVID-Safe Plans
  • SWMS, risk assessments and Safe Operating Procedures for on-site plant movements, firewood processors, milling machines
  • Site signage and amenities
  • Project induction guides and records
  • Contractor management practices


The AOHS team also supported the project’s planning, environmental and emergency management obligations with council’s planning department, Country Fire Association (CFA)and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The volume of materials meant that eventually a second site had to be established in Romsey.

Action OHS worked closely with Tree Mason to establish the Romsey site and ensured it was capable of meeting the needs of Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV), who was supporting the clean-up of residential properties through their Storm and Flood Recovery Program.


Phil said that there is a positive twist to what was a devastating event.


“With every piece of material brought to the Tree Mason site being repurposed, there is zero waste,” he said.


“A few examples include fence posts, firewood and garden stakes, and it’s all provided back to the affected communities for free.


“We are proud to have been able to support Tree Mason, MRSC and BRV in this project.”

Don’t let COVID-19 mean you neglect the rest of your OHS program

After a challenging period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most industries across the country are now emerging from lockdown and getting back to a relative kind of normal. From a workplace perspective, many organisations have been able to reset and re-establish their operations by working with the guidance provided by governments, peak industry bodies, and safety regulators.


To keep workers and customers safer against the pandemic and allowing businesses get back on track, the focus has certainly been on being proactive. Organisations have assessed known risk areas, implemented control methods, and both established and documented clear OHS policies and procedures. Importantly, they have identified ways to support safety-related information flowing through to workers, often realised via an increase in team meetings or the roll out of cloud-based solutions.


However, in the chaos of the last year and with so many ever-changing COVID-19 related rules to follow, many of us may have inadvertently forgotten about our overall OHS safety program. Do you even remember the last time you reviewed any of your workplace OHS policies, or audited operational practices that weren’t COVID-19 related?



The pandemic certainly brought attention to the value of the OHS industry as a whole, and helped to show how important it is to have clear and concise protocols for employees to follow in a crisis. But now it is time to leverage the outstanding work we have all achieved in the health and safety space in our workplaces and move the focus to areas we may have been neglecting over the past year, with the COVID-19 response taking up more attention.


Don’t just limit your focus to what has fallen to the side as a result of COVID-19.


With a newfound confidence in the management of COVID-19, businesses are now encouraged to extend their lens to hazards and risks that may have been historically ignored. Pay attention to those hazards and risks that have previously been viewed as “too hard” to manage, or those hazards and risks that businesses have ignored as they were not sure what effective management could look like, or how change could be implemented.


Now is the time to seize the moment. Now is the time to consider the shortfalls in your OHS safety management system. It’s time to reassess your priorities and look under the hood.


Here are some considerations to bear in mind when assessing the health of your overall OHS safety program:



Go back to the beginning

Firstly, refer back to your pre-COVID-19 safety program documentation and think about what your priority areas were then. What has changed? What challenges or focus areas remain the same and which ones are now different?


As workplaces push on and operate in a new kind of normalcy – and with employees performing their roles in a variety of new ways and in a range of locations – what else besides COVID-19 do we need to focus upon to ensure our employees are safe from other workplace hazards and risks?


No doubt many areas of your program will have changed and need to be updated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, you may also likely to be faced with similar safety challenges as you experienced pre-pandemic. Work through these carefully.


It’s important to plan to ensure your highest priority, or greatest consequence hazards, are addressed. Ensure your safety program remains relevant, and that it reflects your actually workplace activities. When your safety program reflects the work ‘as done’, it will do its job in supporting the safety function across your organisation, long past COVID-19.



Break it down into small projects

Consider breaking down your requirements into smaller projects or short-term pieces of work to make them more manageable. Could you make a business case for more resources, funding and/or professional safety support to assist you in addressing certain areas of your safety program that have been neglected?


The onboarding of specialised OHS consulting staff for short-term project work, as opposed to hiring full-time staff in safety-focused roles, can be an affordable way to tackle your priority projects. They can help shine a light on the key areas of focus that will keep your workplace safe and healthy.


Action OHS Consulting offers this type of support. Consider reaching out to find out more about the short and long-term secondment consulting services that we offer.


Pitch it to management the right way

Your management team will no doubt have recognised the importance of an effective health and safety program, and the implementation of OHS procedures throughout the pandemic.


In many cases, the pandemic has been a catalyst for our understanding of why OHS safety programs are important to the overall functionality of your business. So leverage it for better safety practices at your work.


When you are seeking more resources or funding for your safety program, it’s likely management will want to see the value of the investment. This can be demonstrated by explaining how the work ties into broader business goals, and by defining the return on investment.


When pitching for more resources or funding, consider different ways to frame your case. For example, does your business have a focus on returning productivity to pre-pandemic levels, or ascending to a higher level? Do you want to build employee morale after a challenging period of change? Or do you need to focus on improving systems and processes to support efficient ways of working?


All of these are opportunities for you to make a case for funding or resourcing pieces of your OHS program. Support from your management is essential for these goals to be achieved in one way or another.


If you’re not sure where to start, please feel free to contact us, and discuss further with one of our consultants.


Keep your employees front of mind

While COVID-19 will remain an important focus in our workplaces for some time to come, this doesn’t mean we can be ignorant of other hazards and risks that may exist. Some aspects of how we approach our work have significantly changed. However, protecting the health and safety of colleagues will always be the focus.


Our employees are the lifeblood of our organisations and without them, there would be no business, no workplaces. So take the time now to review your whole OHS program, not just the policies and procedures relating to COVID-19. Consider integrating your COVID-19 measures into your OHS program as a whole if you haven’t done so already.



The key is to not lift the focus from your COVID-19 policies and procedures but to turn your attention to other just as important aspects of your program to ensure that whatever may arise in your workplace, you and your employees are ready to face it.


Find out more about how Action OHS Consulting can help give your safety program a health check here.

Newly released health and safety codes – May 2021

Safe Work Australia

Model WHS Regulations

Safe Work Australia has updated the model WHS Regulations and its guidance on the meaning of “person conducting a business or undertaking”.

Meanwhile, the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS 7) has been made a reference. The Commonwealth jurisdiction and most states and territories started the two-year transition from GHS 3 to GHS 7.

Outdated standards relating to pressure equipment and lasers used in the building and construction industry have been removed.

The model WHS Regulations and any changes made to them don’t apply in a jurisdiction until they are made in the jurisdiction.


Workplace Traffic Management

Safe Work Australia has updated its guidance on workplace traffic management to include information on working on or near public roads. To ensure the safety of workers and the public when managing traffic on a public road, actions could include installation of barriers and warning devices to ensure workers and vehicles stay separated.



Statement of Regulatory Intent – COVID-19

The statement on the approach to WHS compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic has been revised by WHS Regulators. The Statement of Regulatory Intent – COVID-19, developed by the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA), sets out principles Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulators use to guide their approach to ensuring compliance with WHS laws during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure the Statement remains current and relevant, revisions have been applied including addition of new information on COVID-19 vaccines. The Statement does not apply to the WHS regulators in the Australian Capital Territory and in Victoria.



COVID-19 vaccine WHS guidance for workplaces

Safe Work Australia has published new information about work health and safety and COVID-19 vaccines. Employers have a duty under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to eliminate, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

The new guidance provides information about rights and obligations under the model WHS laws and how they relate to COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine work health and safety information is available for employers, small business and workers in 37 different industries.



Preventing workplace sexual harassment, violence and aggression

New national work health and safety guidance has been developed by Safe Work Australia providing practical guidance to businesses to help them prevent workplace sexual harassment, violence, aggression and domestic violence.

Preventing workplace sexual harassment

The new Guide: Preventing workplace sexual harassment is the first comprehensive WHS guidance in Australia to focus on preventing sexual harassment. The guidance supports business and organisations to meet their WHS duties with practical steps to identify risks and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.


Preventing workplace violence and aggression

The Guide: Preventing workplace violence and aggression provides information for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs), such as employers, on how to manage the risk of violence and aggression in the workplace, including gendered violence.



Inspecting and maintaining elevating work platforms

Safe Work Australia has published new guidance for inspecting and maintaining EWPs. Employers are responsible for keeping workers safe and this includes ensuring that plant equipment is inspected and maintained. Employers must also ensure that workers are given the necessary information, training, instruction and supervision to use EWPs safely.



South Australia

HSRs for work groups of multiple businesses

New information on how the work health and safety law allows multiple persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and their workers to establish work groups if workers are carrying out work for different PCBUs. A HSR can represent workers across multiple businesses or undertakings by agreement between all relevant parties. The information provides guidance on establishing multiple-business workgroups through negotiations with workers and the shared responsibilities of each business.



Positive anti-harassment duty imposed on employers

A legislation has been introduced imposing a positive duty on employers to eliminate sexual harassment, discrimination and victimisation in workplaces under the State Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The new duty was recommended by the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission’s review of harassment in the legal profession.



Quad bike safety

Work is being done to make changes to the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 to improve quad bike safety. The changes will require employers to provide workers with a helmet when using a quad bike, require quad bike users to wear a helmet and to undertake training and prohibit the carrying passengers, except where the quad bike is designed and appropriate for that purpose. These changes are supported by changes to the Road Rules 2019; and plans to implement safety measures on public land under the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 and the Crowns Law Act 1976. It is anticipated that these changes will be implemented by 30 June 2021.


OHS Legislation – https://worksafe.tas.gov.au/topics/laws-and-compliance

OHS Codes of practice – https://www.worksafe.tas.gov.au/laws/codes


Environment Protection Act 2017

The Environment Protection Act 2017 will come into effect on 1 July 2021. The Victorian Government undertook a public inquiry into EPA and released its final conclusions in 2016. When the amended Act comes into force, EPA will have enhanced powers in preventing risks to the environment and human health. It will also be able to issue stronger sanctions and penalties to hold environmental polluters to account.

The general environmental duty (GED) is a centrepiece of the new laws as it applies to all Victorians. Risks must be understood if one conducts activities that pose a risk to human health and the environment. One must also take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or minimise them. In an Australian first, the GED is criminally enforceable.



New industry standard for elevating work platform safety

WorkSafe has launched a new industry standard for elevating work platforms (EWPs) to provide operators and employers with practical safety advice to prevent serious injuries and deaths. The new standard provides a comprehensive understanding of the most important safety issues for using EWPs including who has a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers, selecting the appropriate EWP for the task at hand and the different types of EWP available. The standard also covers EWP training and licensing requirements and how to ensure EWPs are properly maintained and inspected for use.



Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Arbitration) Bill 2021

The Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Arbitration) Bill 2021 allows the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS) to hear and make binding determinations on disputes not resolved by conciliation.

The proposed laws give workers the choice to have their matter arbitrated by the ACCS, who must commence a hearing within 30 days of the dispute being referred. Once an application for arbitration commences, a hearing will generally conclude within 60 days, with a determination made within two weeks of the hearing concluding. This will ensure these disputes are resolved within four months – which is less time than it takes to resolve most court proceedings.



New COVID check-in rule for businesses

New rules for workplaces announced by the Victorian Government while issuing a warning against poor compliance with COVID-19-related check-in regulations. From 28 May, all venues and businesses required to undertake electronic record keeping must use the Victorian Government QR Code Service through the Service Victoria app.



New fines for non-compliance with COVID-19 rules

New on-the-spot fines for intentional breaches, as well as fines for repeated breaches, were introduced in response to poor rates of compliance with COVID-19 rules for businesses. Businesses can also be prosecuted in court for continued, blatant or wilful non-compliance with the Chief Health Officer’s pandemic rules on check-ins and other matters.



Education and Training Reform Amendment (Protection of School Communities) Bill 2021

The new proposed legislation aims to improve school safety by giving Victorian schools the power to ban aggressive and violent parents from entering school grounds, to protect students and staff. The Bill arose as a result of a recommendation from the Protective Schools Ministerial Taskforce, established in 2018. The Taskforce recommended legislative changes to in order to address threatening or aggressive conduct towards staff.


New South Wales

New exposure standards for coal dust and diesel particulate matter

The new worker exposure standards for respirable coal dust (1.5mg/m3 of air) and diesel particulate matter (0.1mg/m3 measured as sub-micron elemental carbon) commenced on 1 February 2021.




New guidelines to boost delivery driver safety

Draft guidelines have been released for industry consultation to provide better protection for workers in the food delivery industry. The guidelines outline existing hazards in the industry, such as poorly maintained bikes, fatigue and extreme weather conditions, and the actions that must be taken by delivery platforms, drivers and restaurants to mitigate these risks.

Strategies have been developed in partnership with industry to help food delivery operators, drivers and restaurants understand their obligations under NSW Work Health and Safety Legislation.



Accommodation guide

The SafeWork NSW Accommodation guide is a practical guide that helps persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) understand and meet their obligations under the NSW work health and safety laws when designing or choosing the form of accommodation provided for workers during work undertaken away from home.

It includes useful information and advice on what accommodation should include, as well as considerations when choosing accommodation and maintenance requirements.



Managing WHS at events

The Managing WHS at events guide helps event organisers understand and meet their obligations under Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws when managing events.

It includes useful information and advice on planning, managing and monitoring an event to ensure the health and safety of workers, volunteers and the visiting public.


OHS Legislation – https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/legal-obligations
OHS Codes of Practice – https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/list-of-all-codes-of-practice

Australian Capital Territory

OHS Legislation – http://www.legislation.act.gov.au
OHS Codes of Practice – https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/4201


Codes of practice updated

National safe work codes of practice have been reviewed and updated in line with a nationwide agreement in 2015 that all Australian work health and safety regulators will review the codes of practice every five years. 21 Queensland codes of practice that are based on national codes of practice have been updated and approved for the state. The new codes commenced on 1 March.



Updated Codes

Abrasive blasting code of practice 2021

Confined spaces code of practice 2021

Demolition work code of practice 2021

Excavation work code of practice 2021

First aid in the workplace code of practice 2021

Hazardous manual tasks code of practice 2021

How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace code of practice 2021

How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021

How to safely remove asbestos code of practice 2021

Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals code of practice 2021

Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work code of practice 2021

Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace code of practice 2021

Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021

Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021

Managing the work environment and facilities code of practice 2021

Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals code of practice 2021

Safe design of structures code of practice 2021

Spray painting and powder coating code of practice 2021

Welding processes code of practice 2021

Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination code of practice 2021

OHS Legislation – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/laws-and-compliance/workplace-health-and-safety-laws/laws-and-legislation
OHS Codes of Practice – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/laws-and-compliance/workplace-health-and-safety-laws/laws-and-legislation/codes-of-practice


Northern Territory

OHS Legislation – https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/laws-and-compliance
OHS Codes of Practice – https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/forms-and-resources/codes-of-practice


Western Australia

OHS Legislation – https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/legislation
Codes of Practice – https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/approved-codes-practice

All you need to know about building an effective Safety Management System

What is a Safety Management System (SMS, or also known as an Occupational Health and Safety Management System or OHSMS)? Well, it’s is a set of policies, procedures and plans that systematically manages the health and safety of your workplace.

It covers crucial organisational structures and reporting lines, key accountabilities, and all your health and safety policies and procedures. The great thing about safety management systems is that they are not one size fits all. They are scalable and therefore can be tailored specifically to the size and complexity of your own workplace.


Why do you need a Safety Management System or OHSMS?

A well-implemented Safety Management System helps minimise the risk of injury and illness due to workplace operations, and that should be front of mind for any business, right? The other great thing is that you shouldn’t have to start from scratch. Your organisation most likely has some elements of a SMS already in place. The key is to link these elements into a coordinated overall system to improve work health and safety performance.


Key components of a Safety Management System

The universally accepted framework for SMSs includes the main components listed below. These components represent the minimum requirements that need to be met when implementing your system for it to be recognised as a Safety Management System:


  • Safety policy and objectives
  • Management commitment and responsibility
  • Safety accountabilities
  • Appointment of key safety personnel
  • Coordination of emergency response planning
  • Safety Management System documentation
  • Safety risk management
  • Hazard identification
  • Risk assessment and mitigation
  • Safety assurance
  • Safety performance monitoring and measurement
  • The management of change
  • Continuous improvement of the Safety Management System
  • Safety promotion
  • Training and education
  • Safety communication


So keep this handy as you begin. You can then take the next step and have your Safety Management System certificated against ISO 45001.


What is ISO 45001?

ISO 45001 is an International Organisation for Standardisation standard for management systems of occupational health and safety. Its goal is the reduction of occupational injuries and diseases, including promoting and protecting physical and mental health. An ISO 45001 certification can be obtained by any organisation regardless of its size, type and nature.


In addition, having your Safety Management System certified as ISO 45001 can lead to recognition for having achieved an international benchmark, and in turn, will influence potential clients who are concerned about their social responsibilities to choose you from your competitors. They will be reassured when they know they are dealing with an organisation that has internationally recognised safety standards. So it really is win-win.


What does building a Safety Management System look like?

Even before you get down to the nitty-gritty of documenting those all-important policies and procedures, there are a few initial steps you should consider taking when implementing your SMS. These steps will ensure that you effectively contextualise your health and safety program to your own specific workplace needs as they currently stand, and so you are not distracted by past manuals or that old workplace saying, “the way you have previously done things”.



First of all, set up a working group, who will drive the implementation of your Safety Management System. Ideally, this group should include a mixture of management and employees that represent the breadth of all facets of your organisation. It would also be ideal to have a subject matter expert from the industry from which your organisation is part.


Controlling hazards is the key

Effective implementation of health and safety management within your workplace should result in hazards being controlled. Hazard control is achieved either by reducing the impact or by reducing the likelihood of exposure to the hazard.


Once your working group is established consider all the actual “work” that that is completed by your teams and the potential hazards that come with this work. This includes within your office, as well as within your production arm and employees out in the field.


It is important to not just focus on hazards that you perceive as higher-risk. You want to create an overall organisational context for your Safety Management System and to take into account all risks and opportunities, not just those obvious ones. This will ensure you are implementing a system with a holistic view.



Once you have a clear understanding of context and hazard controls, begin by documenting them within your Safety Management System. This will enable your organisation to begin to improve its safety performance by:


  • Ensuring documented health and safety policies and objectives reflect the work that you do actually do, not the work you imagine is done.
  • Increasing the awareness of your health and safety risks. Your documented Safety Management System will provide a single source of truth.
  • Allowing you to evaluate your health and safety performance against the processes as documented and allow you to more easily identify “breaks in the process” when moving down the path of continuous improvement.
  • Documenting key responsibilities, to ensure both management and workers can take an active role in health and safety matters.


What are the challenges with implementing and maintaining a Safety Management System?

It is important to be aware of some of the challenges that can be faced when implementing your SMS:


  1. Getting Started

Like anything to begin with, it can be hard to get started. Too often companies advise that they are not ready, as they want everything to be perfect before they begin the process. However, your Safety Management System should always be considered an ongoing and ever-evolving process that will never be perfect, so the key is to begin.


  1. Setting Goals

 Companies building an SMS should set realistic goals. A company knows its capabilities and limitations which should be referenced when implementing health and safety targets. If you set too an unrealistic goal, your team could get disheartened and lose interest in implementing your system further.  


  1. Problem Solving

If you don’t know what your potential organisational health and safety risks are, you won’t be able to confidently begin implementing your safety management system. That is why it is important to have people from across the breadth of your workplace operations to help you identify these risks.


Most workplaces find that once they take time to explicitly understand and document their health and safety hazards and then agree on how the hazards are controlled; building and implementing the Safety Management System is relatively simple.


  1. Self-Management

 Safety Management Systems require ongoing input and update and consequently, their success mostly depends on the enthusiasm of your working group overseeing your system. If you don’t ensure continuous improvement and input, your system and the health and safety of your workplace can suffer.


Software platforms such as Safety Champion Software can help. They can ensure that implementation activities are planned for and scheduled. They prompt workers when tasks that they are responsible for approaching their due date, and where required escalate to management if tasks are not completed. This will help with the momentum and help keep you on track.


  1. Transparency

Ensuring the correct information is shared with all employees is another major challenge when implementing a Safety Management System. Often crucial and timely safety information can get lost within an organisation’s traditional reporting system. However, software platforms that specialise in safety management and compliance, such as Safety Champion Software again, can play a role here.


The cloud-based nature of most safety management software products ensures that workers have access to the most current policies and procedures, chemical registers, and training documentation. It can allow employees to report incidents and hazards in real-time and communicated to all stakeholders instantaneously.


Why make building your Safety Management System a focus?

When implemented well, building and implementing a Safety Management System has immense value. The obvious positive outcome is to the health and wellbeing of your employees. These benefits should also be kept front of mind to keep up the momentum when establishing your Safety Management System:


  • You will improve your organisation’s ability to respond to regulatory compliance issues
  • You will reduce the overall costs of incidents
  • You will reduce downtime and the costs of disruption to operations
  • You will reduce the cost of insurance premiums and risk of prosecution
  • You will reduce absenteeism and employee turnover rates


By taking action today and organising a coordinated, holistic and internationally recognised system to improve your workplace health and safety performance, your business and your employees are the real winners. If you get the setup right, the benefits to health and safety, as well as to other areas of your operations, are sure to follow.


For more support with designing and implementing an effective Safety Management System, reach out to our team today. Our OHS consulting team have vast experience when it comes to OHSMS development and would be pleased to help.

Key considerations to support a safer return to office

In recent months, Victorians who have been working from home have been able to make a partial and optional return to work facilities. Without doubt, this represents different challenges for businesses that value employee and visitor health and wellbeing. 


A number of factors will impact the success of organisations looking to transition a portion of their workforce (either small or large) from their home working environment and back to the office or other physical work site. It is therefore important that organisational leaders carefully plan this return, and when doing so, that they keep the health and safety of their workforce, customers and visitors front of mind.


In this article, we will outline some considerations to help you make this transition as smoothly as possible. 



Auditing new or changed workplace conditions


Given the potential impact of COVID-19 as a workplace hazard, and acknowledging the ever-changing nature of guidance and advice around COVID, businesses are strongly encouraged to stop and reflect. It may be time to consider an audit.


By auditing the new and/or changed conditions within a workplace, you will support a level of certainty that the proposed controls you put in place are practicable and being implemented well.


Physical distancing will remain an important consideration. Businesses should be looking to identify ways to increase the physical distance between people when at work (i.e., workstations, meeting rooms, etc) and continue to monitor the number of people in enclosed spaces.



Due to the physical distancing and hygiene considerations in place, you may even need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows so you can meet the COVID safe guidelines.


Below is a list of WHS considerations that businesses should evaluate, as they return their workforce to the traditional work site;


  • Inspect and evaluate any new physical hazards. Any change of floor plans or layouts on your premises may change or increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Consider changes that may impact worker movement through aisles, using stairs, and opening and closing doors. 


  • Consider your evacuation plans. Again alterations of the physical spaces may impact your current emergency plans. Consider your emergency meeting points and routes – are they still accessible? Also consider your fire safety signage – this must remain in place alongside the any new COVID-19-specific signage. 


  • Think about the new requirements in terms of maintenance and operation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. 


  • Carefully consider all new hygiene and cleaning requirements – does this extend beyond the bathroom and kitchen and include workstations and all shared spaces. 


  • Review processes that may lead to cross contamination. For example, door handles, joint equipment, or practices that encourage shared pens (e.g., visitor sign-in at reception). How can multiple points of contact be eliminated, or reduced if elimination isn’t possible?


  • Revise and update WHS Policies and Procedures to encompass any change. You should consider the development of a plan that details how you will control exposure to COVID-19, and provide an overview as to how you will manage and respond to a potential outbreak in your work site.


Remember, COVID-19 rules and restrictions differ across states and territories, industries, business sizes, and types of premises. Plus, these rules change continually. So, if you are unsure, or not sure where to look, please seek clarification from your state regulator or reach out the to the Action OHS Consulting Team. 



Consulting and communicating with workers

Returning to the workplace after a long period will no doubt bring about some level of disruption and challenge. The process does involve diligence and preparation, along with great communication from management to workers.


safety secondments


It is important to note that it’s highly possible this process of change may lead to increased anxiety or distress in your workers. It is also possible that you may experience resistance or other reactions to this change.


As such, here are some health and safety pointers to include when planning the return to work;


  • Consult with your workers. Understand their concerns, preferences and motivations about coming back to the workplace. Consider discussing any concerns as a team or with individuals to help manage concerns.


  • Embed an attendance control system. Capture and retain vital records of all attendance from workers, contractors, and visitors who visit your work sites. Should an exposure occur, this will allow you to easily identify close contacts and to ensure potential future exposures can be limited. Consider software products like Safety Champion Software support contactless sign-in and sign-out of your workplace location.


  • Establish a cleaning and disinfection plan. An essential way you can protect workers and their families from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing cleaning and disinfecting measures at the workplace before having them return to it. Plus sharing the details of your cleaning regime will help alleviate anxieties workers may feel when returning to the work space. Again, using software like Safety Champion Software, will allow you to manage your cleaning and disinfection plan.


  • Set clear expectations and directions about hygiene practices. Everyone is responsible for good hygiene. This will require effort from workers, visitors, customers, and others in the workplace. But again, when these directions are clearly communicated to all workers you will have a better chance of increasing comfort levels amongst your team.



Monitoring your progress on an ongoing basis


Safety measures that are in place are at their best when they are being regularly monitored and reviewed. For this reason, business leaders should place emphasis on ensuring that OHS stays on the agenda or top of mind.


Are workers are aware of safety measures? Are practices being followed? Are the measures that are in place still relevant? Do they need to be improved?


Remember, COVID guidance and workplace requirements can change at any moment. The virus itself might present new variants and, with those, new health risks to workers. Therefore, the employer or other OHS duty holder must be vigilant.


Long emphasised by OHS professionals, there is a real need to constantly monitor current controls and preventative actions to ensure they remain effective and appropriate.


Indeed, the situation is uncertain and complex. However, if you are unsure about how to proceed you can access a wealth of support and guidance from Safe Work Australia, the state regulators and OHS professionals. If you need any assistance, do reach out to us today.

Ergonomic hazards and risks: Our observations and recommendations

Typically, discomfort and injuries associated with poor ergonomic posture take time to manifest.

Over the last 12-months, spurred on by the enforced shift for many from office-based work, to home-based work, our consulting team has increased the ergonomic support and advice we provide – as clients looked for ways to manage the foreseeable hazard.

This period has highlighted to us the great importance of correct computer workstation posture.

To emphasise this, we wanted to provide an overview of common issues we have seen and provide some recommendations for approaches to take to avoid them.

1. Neck and shoulder discomfort

As a result of the worker being seated low in their chair. Effective posture will see you positioned so that your elbows are slightly above the top of your desk when seated (and shoulders relaxed). Seated lower than this required the worker to elevated through the shoulder to access their keyboard.

The common misconception when setting up your workstation is that you position yourself feet flat on the floor, with your knees at right angles; forget it.

The number one rule moving forward is to adjust your seated height, so that your elbows clear the top surface of your desk. If your chair does not adjust, place a pillow on your seat; if your feet are not comfortable on the ground when at this height, purchase a footrest, or locate a box.



2. One-side neck discomfort

As many set themselves up at home, they positioned their laptop in a position based on the video background – as MS Teams or Zoom meetings became a daily occurrence.

For many, the laptop has been positioned to either the right or the left side, meaning that we have rotated regular to this one side. As a result, we have built strength in the muscles on one side of the neck, and stretched the other side of the neck. This results in mis-alignment.

The cure, move the laptop from side to side (consider weekly as a minimum). Force the side you strengthen one week, be the side you stretch the next week. Allow equilibrium.

3. Lower back discomfort

For many, the absence of “water cooler” conversations, has resulted in longer periods of time being seated when working at home, compared to working from the office.

In addition to this, there is a common theme of not wanting to miss an email, or communication (i.e. MS Teams, Slack, etc.) when guidance has been to move periodically through the day.

One issue with prolonged seating is that the right-angle posture made, results in the shortening of the hip flexor muscle. As the hip flexor shortens, the pelvis starts to tilt forward, resulting in discomfort to the lower back.

To mitigate this, move. If you’re a manager, build trust with your team – let them know that if you expect an immediate response, you will contact them directly via phone. If you’re a worker, establish ways to move through the day. Can you stand up when on the phone, or in a video meeting?

General tips to better manage ergonomic risks

Along with these common issues, it remains important to monitor and adjust your workstation set up for optimal comfort and support.

Place your monitor at a height that allows the top third of your screen to be at eye level. If you are using a laptop, consider using an external keyboard and mouse, and raising your laptop screen to achieve the “eye-level” posture.

Your keyboard and mouse should stay within arms-reach. To help you achieve correct alignment, place your keyboard such that you can run a line from the tip of your nose, through your belly button, through your B-Key, through to the stem (or logo) of your monitor.

In addition, if your eyes are sore consider doing the following exercise multiple times through the day; Focus in on an object 20m (or more) away, for 20 seconds. The adjustment in focal length will provide the relief you have not been able to find.

The adjustments above are general in nature. If you do have a medically diagnosed injury, you are more than welcome to consider these suggestions. However, please seek and follow the direction of your treating practitioner.

Our service offering for ergonomic support

If you are looking for workplace ergonomics support, we do have a number of packages that include both virtual and face-to-face delivery.

We would love the opportunity to discuss our offerings, which include:

• One-on-one Ergonomic Assessments
• Ergonomic Training or Webinars
• Workstation Equipment Audits
• Online Training Modules

To find out more, contact info@actionohs.com.au or 1300 101 647.

Newly released health and safety codes and legislation – January 2021

Critical Incident Response for Aged Care

A Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for residential aged care and flexible care services was introduced in December through The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2020 (Cth).

The amendments are intended to begin from April 2021 and see a two-stage reporting process introduced for certain incident types, like the notifiable incident processes required for workplace safety.


GHS7 Chemical Labelling
Australia officially began the transition from GHS 3 to GHS 7 on 1 January 2021. The transition period is for two years and will end on 31 December 2022.

GHS 7 introduces several changes to classification, labelling and safety data sheet requirements for workplace hazardous chemicals. In addition to these changes, the definition of ‘hazardous chemical’ has been clarified to ensure it captures all Category 2 eye irritants.

South Australia

A number of changes to the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) came into effect on 1 January 2021. This includes changes to air monitoring during asbestos removal work, chemical labelling, references to Australian Standards for lasers and pressure equipment, and minor updates for diving work.

Air monitoring for asbestos removal
WHS Regulations have been amended effect from 1 January 2021, making permanent the long-standing requirement in South Australia for independent licenced asbestos assessors to conduct air monitoring for asbestos removal under both Class A and Class B licences.

GHS7 chemical labelling
With the transition from GHS 3 to GHS 7 beginning on 1 January 2021, the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) have been amended to update references to the GHS and the transition period.

Lasers and Pressure Equipment
Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) will incorporate amendments to update, and include, references the current Australian Standards for lasers and pressure equipment, effective from 1 January 2021, as follows:

Regulation 223 will reference:

  • AS 2397:2015 Safe use of lasers in the building and construction industry in place of AS 2397:2003 Safe use of lasers in the building and construction industry.
  • Schedule 5 Part 1 and Part 2 will reference:

  • AS 4343:2014 Pressure equipment – Hazard levels instead of AS4343:2005 Pressure equipment – Hazard levels
  • AS1200:2015 Pressure equipment instead of AS1200:2000 Pressure equipment.

    Diving Work
    From 1 January 2021, the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) will incorporate amendments to remove redundant standards referenced, improve clarity and correct minor errors.

    Updated Codes
    • First Aid in the Workplace: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Managing the Risk of Falls in the Workplace: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Managing the Work Environment and Facilities: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Abrasive Blasting: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Confined Spaces: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Demolition Work: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Excavation Work: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Hazardous Manual Tasks: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • How to Safely Remove Asbestos: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Managing the Risks of Plant in the Workplace: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Spray Painting and Powder Coating: Code of practice 2020 (June)
    • Welding Processes: Code of practice 2020 (June)

    OHS Legislation – https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/
    OHS Codes of practice – https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/workplaces/codes-of-practice


    OHS Legislation – https://worksafe.tas.gov.au/topics/laws-and-compliance
    OHS Codes of practice – https://www.worksafe.tas.gov.au/laws/codes


    Proposed Amendments for Provisional Payments for Workers’ Claim on Mental Injury

    The Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Provisional Payments) Bill 2020 (the Bill) was introduced into the Legislative Assembly in November 2020.

    Following the release of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, the government made a promise to implement changes to reduce the delay in workers receiving support for mental health injuries that was extending out, on average, to 13 weeks.

    The Bill seeks to introduce a 3-day notification requirement for mental injury claims and aims to provide workers with support within 2 days of the claim being submitted; a vast improvement from the average 13 weeks.


    Lead Regulation Amendments
    Amendments to Part 4.3 (Lead) of the OHS Regulations came into effect on 5 June 2020.

    Adjustments were made to the following:
    • airborne lead exposure standard
    • definition of lead-risk work
    • frequency of biological monitoring
    • blood lead level thresholds for removal from, and return to, lead-risk work.

    OHS Legislation – https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/laws
    Codes of Practice – https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/compliance-codes-and-codes-practice

    New South Wales

    Updated Codes
    • Formwork Code of Practice 2020
    • First Aid in the workplace code of practice 2020
    • Excavation work code of practice 2020

    OHS Legislation – https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/legal-obligations
    OHS Codes of Practice – https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/list-of-all-codes-of-practice

    Australian Capital Territory

    Updated Codes
    • Work Health and Safety (Abrasive Blasting Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Hazardous Manual Tasks) Code of Practice Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks) Code of Practice Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Managing Electrical Risks at the Workplace Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work) Code of Practice 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Managing the Work Environment and Facilities) Code of Practice Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Confined Spaces) Code of Practice Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Demolition Work Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Excavation Work Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (How to Safely Remove Asbestos Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice) 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Preventing Falls in Housing Construction Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Safe Design of Structures Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Spray Painting and Powder Coating Code of Practice) Approval 2020
    • Work Health and Safety (Welding Process Code of Practice) Approval 2020

    OHS Legislation – http://www.legislation.act.gov.au
    OHS Codes of Practice – https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/4201


    Updated Legislation
    • Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011
    • Safety in Recreational Water Activities Regulation 2011

    Updated Codes
    • Electrical safety code of practice 2020 – Electrical equipment rural industry
    • Electrical safety code of practice – Works
    • Working near overhead and underground electric lines – Electrical safety code of practice 2020

    OHS Legislation – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/laws-and-compliance/workplace-health-and-safety-laws/laws-and-legislation
    OHS Codes of Practice – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/laws-and-compliance/workplace-health-and-safety-laws/laws-and-legislation/codes-of-practice

    Northern Territory

    Updated Legislation
    • Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations 2011 as in force 29 July 2020
    • Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority Act 2012 – As in force 28 June 2020
    • Waste Management and Pollution Control Act 1998 as in force at 28 June 2020
    • Water Act 1992 – As in force 20 November 2020

    OHS Legislation –https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/laws-and-compliance
    OHS Codes of Practice – https://worksafe.nt.gov.au/forms-and-resources/codes-of-practice

    Western Australia

    Silica Health Surveillance
    Businesses that expose workers to crystalline silica will be required to provide a low-dose HRCT scan, supervised by an appointed medical practitioner, instead of the previously required chest X-ray once the amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 come into effect on 15 April 2021.

    Work Health Safety Act & Regulations
    The Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 was passed by Parliament on 3 November 2020 and is awaiting royal assent. Work to develop the regulations will continue into 2021, and the WHS Act will not be operational until these have been completed.

    OHS Legislation – https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/legislation
    Codes of Practice – https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/approved-codes-practice

    NDIS Worker Screening Check
    A nationwide new worker screening process commenced from 1 February 2021 after Wester Australia passed the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Worker Screening) Bill 2020 (WA) in December.
    Amendments to the following were made because of this Bill being passed:
    • Spent Convictions Act 1988
    • Working with Children (Criminal Record 19 Checking).
    These changes allow the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) to introduce, and manage, a nationally consistent Worker Screening Check (NDIS Check) and the NDIS Worker Screening Database.
    All new workers, and current workers, are required to be checked through the system, with the transitional phase completed over December 2020 to 1 February 2021.
    The checks and register look to determine if the worker has been excluded to work in any industries, and if they may pose a risk to work with a person with a disability.


    How to host a COVID safe end-of-year celebration at your work

    Around this time of year, we find that many businesses seek OHS guidance about how they can host a safe Work Christmas Party or end-of-year celebration. Our advice is more or less the same each yearWe recommend you conduct a safety risk assessment at your chosen party location, manage alcohol carefully and the related hazards, and communicate clearly with your team about appropriate conduct and the rules of the event, to name a few. 


    Read about more key considerations for work parties here.  


    Whilst this safety guidance is still certainly relevant, this year there is a new consideration. You guessed it, COVID-19. From a work health and safety management and compliance perspective, you must take deliberate action to ensure you are hosting a COVIDsafe party for your team this year.  



    What are the key COVID considerations for your party this year? 


    Physical distancing 

    Physical distancing is still an important component of our ability to control the spread of coronavirus within the community. As such, you must ensure you pick a venue that allows for space – much more than usual that is. Venues will no doubt guide you in the number of patrons they can have in a space – but also be proactive about this and ask.  

    To help, ask your team to RSVP and stick to that RSVP so that you don’t have more people than you intended show up on the day/night.  


    Location & size 

    Leading on from physical distancing, you may also like to consider the size and location of your party. If you’re struggling to find a venue that will keep everyone in the same room, suitably safe and distant, without breaking the budget, consider having multiple smaller events or hosting an outdoor event this year. The likelihood of the coronavirus spreading outside vs inside is around 10 to 20 times less likely – so it’s a great plan if you can. 

    Consider having team-based celebrations instead of an “all staff” one. Think about outdoor venues like parks, the local footy oval, beaches, Botanical Gardens, or lawn bowls.  


    A COVID safe Christmas Party or Work Event in Australia



    Cleanliness & sanitisation 

    Maintain a clean and sanitised work place for your team is a big part of any COVID safe plan out there. We’ve all become used to the concept of sanitising our hands or workspaces, and being mindful of touching our faces/then surfaces or people around us. It is no different at your end-of-year party.  

    First, ensure the space is clean and sanitised when you start – and, if possible, arrange for surfaces to be cleaned throughout the duration of the party. Second, ensure you have hand sanitiser and appropriate signage around the part space to remind people.  



    Work events are often stand-up cocktail parties or bbqs, at which we might touch multiple glasses and plates throughout the night. There’s also commonly shared food at such events. However, this year, be mindful that it may be best to discourage the sharing of food, drinks, plates, cutlery and glassware, or touching multiple items, multiple times 

    Consider ways that everyone can keep hold of their glass and reduce shared items. Perhaps a little charm around your glass, or people may bring their own. You may also choose a sit-down event, in which people use the items in front of them and eat a plated meal. 


    Lay the ground rules 

    With each and every one of these considerations, the most important thing is to ensure they are well communicated and understood by all attendees. Consider communicating this in a few ways, and request acknowledgement that your colleagues have read and understood the rules for the day/night 


    Before the event, ensure you brief everyone (in person and/or in writing) on proper conduct and let them know about the rules for the event. At the event, use posters to remind people what you’ve already outlined. 



    Management of COVID-19 as an OHS hazard 


    At the end of the day, COVID-19 is a hazard that needs to be managed like any other in your workplace or at work-related events. When you conduct your risk assessment of the location of your work event, ensure that COVID is a top consideration.  


    Think about every possible way you can avoid the spread. Consider the points above as you plan what you will do, where you will go, how many people will be there, and how you can adhere to the relevant government and regulatory guidance.  


    Certainly, this is one end-of-year celebration we’ll all be pleased to attend – particularly for Victorians as they come out the other side of a longer lock down than most. We all need some time to rejuvenate, reconnect and relax, together as work mates and teams, after such a stressful and tumultuous year. 


    From the team at Action OHS Consulting to your team – happy end of year celebration! We made it! 


    If you need assistance with your COVID safe planning as we round out the year or perhaps as you plan to re-open and welcome your workers back, we’re here to help. Reach out to our team of OHS professionals today. 

    3 ways to show your commitment to safety as a manager or leader

    You have probably heard that the best way to lead is by setting the right example. For some of you, this might sound repetitive. However, leading by example is certainly the most effective way to make workplace health and safety a collective effort within your workplace.


    Frequently, our clients tell us that even though they are aware of the importance of getting everyone involved in their health and safety practices, they struggle with keeping workers motivated and empowered.


    The struggle often happens because people follow what they see – both in action and in attitude. This is to say that your workers won’t commit to your safety culture, if you – as a manager or person of influence – are not seen to be committed yourself.


    This is important. It is imperative that leaders first consider – then reconcile within themselves – why the safety of their people is important to them, rather than ‘doing’ safety simply to comply with the rules.

    In this article we will explain three simple strategies that you can adopt to both develop and demonstrate your commitment to safety, and to guide your workforce to do the same.


    1. Interact with people in their place of work


    Communication is an essential tool in safety management. Not only does communication ensure expectations and responsibilities are shared and understood, it also provides an opportunity for management to understand what is working, and what is not.


    Yet, when you limit the communication you have with your operative workforce to a weekly or monthly meeting of a maximum of one hour (for example, via safety meeting or committee) you may find that your workforce see safety as something that is additional to their work, rather than the way you work.


    Communicating about safety outside of these meetings and, in fact, embedding communicating about safety throughout your entire operations can help to ensure that safety becomes part of the way you work.


    Start interacting with people about safety outside of set meetings, and in the operational workplace settings in your organisation. Walk around your various work spaces, and chat with your workers.


    Make safety an explicit part of your ‘walk-arounds’. For this to be successful, you don’t need to formalise it. It does not need to be a documented inspection or an audit – this will occur at scheduled times. This is about walking throughout your operational facilities and watching people perform their everyday job, whilst you check in with them. You’re trying to learn first if they have any safety concerns and also whether they are aware of their commitments and focus areas in safety.



    The important thing is to keep this interaction open and less formal. Your workers should feel comfortable to raise their concerns and not feel as though they are being monitored for bad behaviour or not knowing something.


    Don’t perform a safety walk-around without first considering:


    • Be aware of your safety performance indicators. Play around in your Safety Management Software Reporting Module or your past reports. Analyse the key performance indicators (KPIs) such as which are the departments reporting the highest number of corrective actions, near misses or incidents.
    • Review your safety compliance planning and inspection documentation. Be aware of which tasks and compliance activities are overdue.
    • Ask the operations managers or team leaders if something is going on with regards to the health or personal life of one of their direct reports.


    Having this information with you better prepares you to do your safety walk-around. You can address and/or anticipate conversations with workers. Additionally, you can properly respond in case you notice any unsafe practices that have led to an incident in the past, according to what you observed in your KPIs or what you had discussed with the team leader.



    2. Have better safety conversations


    As we said at the beginning of this article, the best way to make safety a collective effort is to lead by example. Therefore, think carefully about the quality of the conversations you are having around safety.


    The kind conversations that take place during meetings or committees between you, safety professionals and workers will influence the conversations that are had between the front-line supervisors and the workers who report to them.


    Be mindful that flippant or overly casual conversations may provide your workforce with insights as to whether you “truly” believe in your safety program. The trust you build in meetings can be instantly eroded with a flippant comment during Friday night drinks or any other time.


    To make your conversations successful, you need to make sure that there is a two-way dialogue. You must give others, irrespective of their role in your organisation, the chance to express their opinions. They must also understand that you care about what they are saying. To do so:


    • Focus on the positive side of things. Often safety conversations only occur when something is not going well or a mistake has been made. Aim to change that pattern. Start acknowledging people’s achievements. When walking through your workplace, comment on the effective practices. When reflecting on your safety reporting and the performance of your established KPIs, identify which department or units are performing well, call it out, and congratulate them and their contribution.


    • Be empathetic and curious. Workers don’t intentionally go out of their way to injure themselves and/or their team members. Unsafe actions or behaviours often occur because there is something else circumventing or driving their behaviour away from the established control. Having safety conversations with your workers, asking questions so that you can fully understand challenges they experience, and/or showing care and interest in their personal wellbeing is vital. This will help you to proactively manage hazards, and introduce change, before an incident occurs. Remember, if you ask the question, listen. If you are start off thinking that they are already wrong before you’ve heard them, seek to understand prior to making that judgement. Challenging their view might lose trust, but being open to listen helps. Importantly, identifying errors in your system, or identifying if someone is under stress, at the workplace can save lives as well.


    • Don’t blame anyone. Instead, help people to realise their improvement opportunities. When starting a safety conversation it is important that the workers involved are given the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind their actions, rather than being directly criticised or blamed. This remains true even if it is directly after identifying an unsafe behaviour during a walk-around or incident investigation. It can be challenging at first. However, you are more likely to identify the root cause of the behaviour, allowing you to effectively address is. Additionally, if you want your workers to trust that you care about their safety and wellbeing, show them your support.


    3. Do what you say


    As a leader of your organisation, people are always watching you. So, be faithful to your safety message, in even the simplest ways.


    This is not to say that you cannot make mistakes. However, you need to be careful that you are setting a good example regarding your safety commitment. This includes some of the more ‘basic’ aspects, such as wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during your walk-around, following the safety and health procedures when entering restricted areas and, ‘saying something if you see something’.



    Avoid the trap of thinking that you don’t need to follow the processes and protocols that have been set – that they are for the team. This is a common error that leaders often make. And it’s one that usually results in poor safety management practices overall, and the perception of poor leadership.


    Remember the saying: What is important to my manager is important to me.


    If workers see that you ignore the safety processes that are in place, why would you expect them to see see their value and take them seriously?


    Finally, remember that leadership is service and there is no safety without service. In other words, as a leader who is aware of the broader organisational health and safety goals, you can use your strengths, knowledge and position to support and encourage others towards these shared goals. The best way to demonstrate your commitment is by leading by example to help others to become safety champions.

    COVID-19 – Your OHS FAQs answered

    The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on workplaces and the way we work across Australia have been profound. Apart from the impact on jobs and the level of business activity, many of us have become entrenched in a ‘strange’ new world of working from our home offices, kitchen / dining tables or (in the worst case) lounges.

    For those of us who have continued to work at worksites you’ll surely have noticed several changes reflecting a focus on continuous cleaning and disinfecting regimes, as well as social distancing measures.

    In this article we answer some commonly asked questions in relation to how employers and leaders can position their workplace to best address some of the key work health and safety, COVID-specific challenges that are likely to arise in the coming months ahead.


    What can I do to support my employees to return to a safe workplace?

    It is also being widely speculated that many workers will wish to continue to work from home when we return to work (KPMG May 2020). Of course, many employees will come back to workplaces, particularly those who are in customer facing roles or who work on remote sites.

    For many organisations there remains a need for work to be conducted in workplaces. So there workplaces will be keen to get back into it. As such, over the coming weeks some businesses will see their employees return in some capacity or another.

    Many people will be nervous about travelling to and from work on public transport (in spite of social distancing laws) and working in close proximity to colleagues.



    So, it will be critical to ensure a systematic approach to controlling the COVID-19 related risk and ensure that infections do not appear or recur.

    At a minimum, consider doing the following to achieve this:

    • Ensure that a cleaning program is in place which involves daily (or greater, depending on your business) sanitisation of commonly used areas (lift buttons, counters, kitchen benches, foyers etc). For service based workplaces such as retail / food outlets this may include cleaning every few hours or even hourly. This will be especially important if ‘hot desking’ is to continue.
    • Ensure that ample supplies of personal cleaning equipment are available to employees. Consult with them in determining what these should be.
    • Protect your workers by aligning them in teams so that in the event of an outbreak, reinfection is minimised. Support spreading commuter loads on public transport by (where possible) staggering start and end times for workers.
    • Provide signage and direction to ensure that social distancing rules are maintained.
    • Consider banning visitors from your workplace. Or, if you must have visitors, provide sanitiser for them (as well as your workers) to use upon entering and exiting your workplace. Screen them to ensure that they are feeling well.
    • Mandate all workers who do not feel well must remain at home and encourage them to get tested for COVID-19.
    • Be prepared to close the workplace down and send all workers home in the event of a worker in the workplace developing COVID-19.

    These and other steps should be implemented in a systematic and planned way and constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure that the overall risk is controlled. On line web based OHS Management platforms such as Safety Champion will make this job easier and allow easier reporting and management of COVID-19 related issues


    How can I get my workforce involved in our ‘new normal’?

    It is important to involve your workers when making decisions about how to return to work or any other changes you are making to manage COVID. Additionally, continue to involve your workers over time so you can monitor the effectiveness of what you are doing and adjust, as required.

    Involving your team in the design of control initiatives, inspecting workplace(s) to ensure that implemented controls are still in place, and encouraging stakeholders to report issues including breaches of the rules, and taking action to resolve these are essential to manage this risk.


    What can I do to ensure our employees are mentally ok with returning to work?

    It is likely that many of us will all be nervous coming back to workplaces. In addition, those who have remained at work may be nervous about their colleagues returning.



    Steps that could be taken to assure nervous employees may include:

    • Permitting employees in non-customer facing roles to remain working from home and checking in frequently to determine a future return date.
    • Empowering employees to determine their work start times to facilitate travel on less crowded public transport. Blended wok days incorporating home and office based work may also be an option.
    • Ensuring that employees, no matter how senior, who breach COVID-19 control rules are appropriately counselled not to do it again. This would include immediately sending employees who present with cold/flu like symptoms.
    • Supporting what is being done to control COVID-19 with signage and visible direction. Visible examples of your commitment to managing the COVID-19 risk will be constantly reassuring to your employees.
    • Ensuring ongoing communications with your employees to listen to their concerns take action to address them in consultation with their colleagues and review the effectiveness of what is done.
    • Employees who are distressed about returning to work may benefit from assistance from a mental health professional via an Employee Assistance Scheme or similar


    If one of my workers contracts COVID-19 at our workplace – or worse, there is an outbreak – what are the OHS legal ramifications?

    An outbreak of COVD-19 in your workplace will have a dramatic effect on your business – a shutdown and deep clean would be an immediate consequence. From a legislative point of view, you may be liable for not providing a safe workplace for your employees if you do nothing to manage the risk of infection in your workplace.


    What about industrial manslaughter law – does this apply to COVID?

    In addition, industrial manslaughter laws (relating to Employers and associated Company Officers) are coming into effect in Victoria in July 2020. Similar laws are already in place in other states around Australia (Queensland, Northern Territory, and the ACT).



    If you are a Company Officer, the best way to avoid an Industrial Manslaughter and workplace safety related prosecution will be to ensure that preventative steps are taken to control COVID-19 in your workplace in a systematic way (see above). In any case, an employee testing positive may also eventuate a worker’s compensation claim, which could affect your premium and cost you money.

    Read more on industrial manslaughter law and what you need to know here.


    What are my responsibilities to my team who continue to work from home?

    State and Territory workplace safety laws across Australia are based on the duty of an employer to provide a safe workplace. This duty extends to an employee if they are working from home. Employers have choice as to how extensively they satisfy this duty.

    Yet, there is some uncertainty as to where an employer’s duty to safety of their works ends.

    Some employers may supply workstation and ergonomic equipment to ensure that the worker is set up in a safe home office. Whilst others may require the employee to manage their own equipment needs and workstation setup.

    Yet, the latter approach places the employer at increased risk of breaching their duty as it leaves greater chance of a worker developing an injury due to poor workstation setup.



    At a minimum an employer should ensure that a worker has a suitable home workstation, knows how to report a safety issue and to whom, has a home office evacuation procedure in place, has a first aid kit, fire extinguisher/smoke alarm at home and that some form of protection against electrocution from faulty office equipment is in place.

    It is a good idea to get all workers working from home to complete a ‘working from home checklist’ specifying these items are in place and also to sign a documented ‘working from home agreement’ so that all parties are clear on when work from home will be taking place.

    Also revisit the agreement on an annual basis. All work-from-home employees should redo the checklist before resigning the agreement. Having these basic steps in place will provide comfort that work from home is being managed adequately.


    What should I be thinking about to plan ahead?

    Some of the challenges that employers may have to face in the not too distant future include – but are not limited to – the following:

    • Psychosocial hazards. Where will the dividing line be between a work-based and home-based psychosocial related injury? Employers should be very aware of emerging hazards in this area. Consider a proactive response strategy in which workers are constantly monitored for stress levels and counselled for home-based issues that may impact workplace performance.
    • Hours vs Output. Will the focus of work have to change from a time based 8-hour work day to one where outcomes are measured? Will management of workers need to be reviewed in order to avoid the creation of undue stress? While the technology exists to monitor output by keystroke rates etc. will this be the best way to ensure a productive workplace and a happy worker?
    • Working Together. How will team-based work be managed with some workers working from home and some from work? How will appropriate distances be upheld? Will there be a risk of screen overload through online meetings and how will this be managed?
    • Infection Control. For industries for which infection control is critical (such as Aged Care and Hospitality) how will employee infection control skills be raised quickly and in a cost-effective way? How will the risk of infection be adequately controlled?


    Concluding remarks

    As OHS professionals we have been excited (not in a weird way) by the challenges presented to us following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. For, arguably, the first time a specific workplace safety issue has been in the headlines for more than one day!

    We are also impressed with the way that workplaces have responded resulting in rapid and effective control of COVID so far. Workers and managers at all levels of organisations have consulted and worked together to demonstrably minimise the risk.

    We need this passion transferred into other safety areas!

    Adopting the practice of identifying workplace hazards, assessing risk associated with them, implementing controls to manage the risk, and reviewing effectiveness of these controls, as was shown for COVID, works in making your workplace safer. And this works best if company owners and executives lead!

    We at Action OHS Consulting want the passion to continue and want to support you all to ‘do a COVID’ for other safety challenges your workplace faces.


    Resources to support a COVID-ready return to work

    Contact Action OHS Consulting if you need specific advice in relation to opening up your workplace post COVID-19, or if you need assistance in managing your workforce from home. Alternatively check out the following websites for specific technical advice:

    Safe Work Australia COVID-19 information

    Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for COVID-19

    Department of Health – COVID-19 infection control training – Although designed for health care workers it may be useful to get workers to undertake, especially if they handle food and serve clients.

    Industrial manslaughter law – What you need to know

    In Victoria, from July 1 this year, the consequences of a workplace fatality will become far more serious for employers who are not providing a safe workplace. This date marks the passing of the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 – Workplace Manslaughter into law.

    This will bring Victoria broadly in line with industrial manslaughter legislation in Queensland and the ACT, while similar laws are mooted to follow in WA and the Northern Territory.

    Senior OHS Consultant, Stephen Pehm, outlines what you need to know about this legislation as an employer or leader, along with considerations for strengthening your workplace health and safety practices.


    An overview of the legislation

    This Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 – Workplace Manslaughter lists the following objects (New Part 5A Section 39a);

    • prevent workplace deaths
    • deter persons who owe certain duties under Part 3 (general duties)
    • Reflect the severity of conduct that places life at risk in the workplace.

    The legislation aims to realise these objects by defining the offence of workplace manslaughter through negligence contributing to the death of another person (New Part 5A Section 39G).



    The purpose of these new amendments is to hold the workplace parties with the power and resources to maintain and improve safety – namely employers and Corporate Officers – to account if a person (including a non-employee) is killed in their workplace as a result of unsafe work practices being carried out.

    For a conviction to be recorded it would have to be proven that the death was directly due to the negligence of the employer or Corporate Officer in maintaining workplace safety.

    Negligence is defined in section 39 (E) as “a great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances in which the conduct was engaged in.”

    It would also have to be proven that the negligence occurred for a high-risk work activity which caused the harm. Note that these may include psychosocial and illness based risk related activities and may be applied retrospectively.


    A brief overview of the penalties

    Penalties for industrial manslaughter are significantly more serious than those currently in place for conviction under the Victorian OHS Act 2004 (up to five years goal and $3.2 million fine (20,000 penalty units) for a corporation ($290 thousand – 1800 penalty units – for an individual).

    If you are convicted under the industrial manslaughter legislation you may be imprisoned for up to 20 years and fined $16.5 million (100,000 ‘Penalty Units’).

    If charged with industrial manslaughter, a court would need to be satisfied of three factors before making a finding of guilt:

    • whether there was negligent conduct;
    • whether there was a breach of a safety duty; and
    • whether the conduct and breach lead to the death of a person.


    OHS advice for next steps

    The most effective way that an employer can avoid a prosecution under this legislation is to ensure that a safe workplace is provided for all work activities and that effective workplace safety based consultation is taking place.

    For a safe workplace to be provided all high risk activities being carried out by that employer must have demonstrably effective safety controls in place to ensure that the risk of serious harm or death were minimised as far as is reasonably practicable.

    Such controls would broadly include:

    • Systems of work in place that specify how work tasks are to be carried out safely;
    • training of all workers to carry out their tasks safely, follow safety rules, engage in meaningful workplace consultation about hazard control and report all safety related issues / participate in safe resolution of these issues;
    • Use of standards compliant equipment and personal protective equipment where applicable all of which is maintained as per manufacturer’s instructions;

    In addition, it would have to be demonstrably clear that all workplace parties were regularly discussing emerging and existing safety related risks and monitoring the effectiveness of controls.


    Evidence and appropriate action

    Having a system in place for ensuring the outcomes above are actively being achieved with evidence gathered to prove what you are doing so is the easiest way to avoid an industrial manslaughter prosecution.

    All of the above activities require all workplace stakeholders – that is, executives, managers, supervisors, and employees/contractors/visitors – to be aware of their responsibilities and carry them out effectively. In addition, evidence should be gathered and monitored to demonstrate that everything is under control and that the risk of a workplace incident is not just around the corner.

    However, it can be difficult to ensure that all stakeholders have access to the data and information they need at all times. Plus keeping track of the evidence across complex workplace settings can be challenging.


    Woman working on laptop


    While maintaining a paper based system or similar is OK, it can be considerably easier to manage your workplace safety obligations using safety management software. For example, Safety Champion will enable much easier storage and retrieval of information and allow easier monitoring that all of the workplace stakeholders are doing what they are required to.


    Corporate officers – personal practices

    As a Corporate Officer you can best avoid a prosecution for industrial manslaughter by being actively aware of and engaged in the state of safety in your organisation.

    If you cannot be confident that your organisation is actively working towards a safer workplace and no one in your organisation can show you evidence of this happening, then you are at risk of being prosecuted in the event of a workplace incident resulting in death or serious injury occurring at your workplace.

    Consider these questions;

    • Do you know what is happening across your work activities from a safety perspective or who is accountable for overall implementation of the system?
    • Are you aware of how many workers have been injured, made ill or nearly been injured from workplace activities?
    • Do you know what your WorkCover premium is and how many active WorkCover claims you have?
    • Do you or a colleague at your level regularly attend consultation meetings and do you monitor their outcomes?

    Being aware of information such as this can act as the ‘canary in the coal mine’. If you choose not to get up to speed on what is happening in regard to workplace safety across your organisation, or to instigate steps to implement safety, then you increase your risk of being prosecuted for industrial manslaughter should someone be killed or seriously injured by the work you carry out.


    If you require any assistance with your OHS management system, please reach out to us. Additionally choose from our suite of upcoming training courses to boost your OHS skills, knowledge and capabilities. 


    To learn more, seek information from your local workplace regulator or trusted legal firm, or;

    WorkSafe Victoria: Victoria’s new workplace manslaughter offences

    AICD: States toughen WHS laws with new industrial manslaughter offences


    Prosecutions: 2019 Summary of VIC and NSW Data

    Workplace prosecutions are something that health and safety practitioners, and business leaders should maintain current awareness of. Why? Because you have a legislative duty to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters relevant to the nature of your operations.

    In addition, the terminology reasonably practicable, means that you should consider the likelihood and degree of harm a hazard or risk could have. Whilst there may not have previously been an incident at your workplace, if a significant incident has occurred across your industry, it is something you should be aware of.

    For the fifth year in a row, Action OHS Consulting has taken some time to collate and review the data available from WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW.

    Used effectively, the provided information should support you to influence key stakeholders within your organisation, and assist your business to make informed decisions with respect to their health and safety program.

    This article provides an overview of the prosecutions from 2015 through to the 2019 calendar years.

    Prosecutions: Numbers and Related Legislation

    Calendar Year 2019 saw a total of 137 prosecutions against the Victorian health and safety legislation, whilst in NSW the number of prosecutions was 37.

    ***Note at the time when this report was produced, zero (0) prosecution had been listed on the SafeWork NSW website – should this change, this report will be updated accordingly***

    When compared to the previous year, there has been a 4% increase in Victoria and a 22% decrease in NSW. With respect to NSW, the prosecution in the current calendar year, align with the number of prosecutions in calendar year 2016 and 2017 where there were 35 and 27 prosecutions respectively.

    Within Victoria:

    • 121 prosecutions were recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 only
    • 1 prosecution was recorded against the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 only
    • 15 prosecutions involved both the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017
    • Unlike previous years, no prosecution involved the Dangerous Goods Legislation.

    Zero prosecutions were against the 2007 version of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations which were updated in 2017.

    Within NSW:

    • 34 prosecutions were recorded against the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 only
    • 2 prosecution was recorded against the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 only
    • 1 prosecution involved both the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017

    Following the last prosecution against the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 being in 2016, and with their being no prosecutions since 2017, this signals a complete transition in NSW to prosecutions against the harmonised legislation.

    Note the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 was superseded as of 1 January 2012.

    Prosecution Timeframes

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

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

    Health and Safety Fines

    Year on year, the average fine and median fine decreased in Victoria, and increased in NSW. In Victoria the median fine has been relatively stable over the last 5 years. The average and median fines were greater in NSW, when compared to Victoria. However, there were approximately 4 times more prosecutions in Victoria, compared to NSW.

    In NSW each prosecution resulted in a monetary fine. In Victoria 124 fines were issued (91% of prosecutions).

    In addition to the fines, WorkSafe Victoria issued 8 Enforceable Undertakings in 2019 which equates to 6% of prosecutions. This is compared to the 6 (7%), 7 (8%), 10 (7%) and 6 (5%) Enforceable Undertaking issued in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. An enforceable undertaking is a legally binding agreement between WorkSafe Victoria and the employer. The employer is obliged to carry out the specific activities outlined in the agreed undertaking. EU’s will typically guide and direct the business being prosecuted to improve its health and safety program.

    Health and Safety Fines: Maximum Issued

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

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

    • Victoria: Bradken made heavy metal components by casting. The castings weighed between 200 and 270 kg and were used in mining, excavation and transport. On 22 July 2014 the castings being manufactured were end blocks for excavators. The manufacturing process commenced with moulds being formed with sand and chemically bonded to make the block. The leading hand then made a core to go inside each mould (to create cavities), and the mould was then placed on a line (like a miniature railway) to move the moulds into the furnace. Inside the furnace molten metal was heated to about 1580° Celsius. The metal was poured into each mould. Each end block casting weighted approximately 270kg at pour; the casting and mould together weighed about 800–900kg. A pneumatic arm pushed the mould along the line and the mould with the castings still inside was left for approximately two hours to cool. After about two hours, the casting was removed from the sand mould. The casting was taken to a cooling bin and the sand was removed from the area and stockpiled to be on-sold for roadmaking. At the time of the incident, the castings were moved using a skid steer loader which had been used in this procedure since its purchase in June 2012. The windscreen of the skid steer loader was fitted with 6mm toughened glass, with an industrial film placed over the outside. Mr. Watson was tasked with removing the castings from the mould and then placing the casting in the cooling bin. This process was known as “knocking out” ie knocking out the castings from the sand moulds. The process also included “knocking off” any remaining sand. The process was undertaken by an employee using the skid steer loader. The mould was tipped off the conveyor onto the concrete floor. The casting temperature was still (on average) about 580°C at this time. The tipping process usually broke the mould from around the casting; otherwise the skid steer operator was required to use the lip of the bucket to break the mould. The operator then picked up the casting using the bucket of the skid steer loader, knocked off any remaining sand, and moved the casting to the cooling bin. There were no eyewitnesses to the event which led to Mr. Watson’s death. A fellow Bradken employee saw the skid steer loader on fire about 100 metres from where he was working. When he ran over he saw Mr. Watson was seated in the cabin of the loader and the casting was resting on him. Mr. Watson was not moving and was charred by the fire. Police and paramedics attended the scene. It took a considerable time for the fire to be extinguished and the casting to cool sufficiently to allow access to Mr. Watson’s body. The cause of death was recorded as “effects of fire”.
    • NSW: On 25 October 2016, a 55-year-old carpenter suffered fatal injuries when he fell from the exposed edge of a partially constructed formwork deck under construction and was impaled through the chest on a reo bar, at Ryde. After a SafeWork NSW investigation, the defendant, Truslan Constructions Pty Ltd, was charged with a breach of section 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. On 12 July 2019, the defendant was convicted by the District Court and fined $450,000

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

    If you were of the understanding that health and safety prosecutions were limited to corporations – think again. In 2019, 13% and 19% of prosecutions were issued to workers in Victoria and NSW respectively – equating to 18 and 7 prosecutions respectively.

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

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

    These criteria are relatively consitent since 2015. In 2019 there was an increase in “guarding-related” prosections, highlighted by the increase in “Guarding”, “Unguarded plant” along with the “Failure to provde and maintain plant”.

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

    Other criteria noteworthy to report on includes reductions in prosecutions related to failure to conduct risk/hazard identification or risk assessment:

    The Complimentary Support

    Action OHS Consulting continues to observe a rise in inbound calls for support, associated with businesses wanting guidance, on how they can best manage their legal obligations associated with health and safety.

    Action OHS Consulting is on a panel of providers endorsed by WorkSafe Victoria which provides complementary OHS Review’s for Victorian-based businesses with less than 60 workers across a period of 12-months. If you would like to find out more about this program, please contact us – Contact Us.

    The Takeaway

    Due diligence is all about collecting information to better understand health and safety impacts associated with a business’s operation, to allow better and more informed decisions being made.

    The intention; is to protect workers, contractors, customers and visitors from harm. It is the duty that is placed on senior managers and businesses under the health and safety legislation, and their for is a duty that all businesses must be aware of.

    With respect to the Health and Safety Legislation, it adopts a risk-based approach. This means that business and their senior managers are required businesses to understand and manage the hazards associated with their operations (due diligence). Put simply, this leads to a requirement for workplaces to actively:

    • Ensure that your safety program easy to access and understand, and importantly relevant to your operations. Strongly consider implementing safety software such as Safety Champion, to help ensure that scheduled tasks are completed, and that workers can easily report incidents and/or hazards. Ensuring that you have visibility and read access to this information, will assist you to proactively prevent incidents from occurring in the future.
    • List all the ways your workers could get hurt, and document what you have put in place to stop this from happening. Start by listing the “Top 5” hazards – focusing on those which could cause the most serious harm. Do this in consultation with a selection of workers who hold different roles within your business. If you identify things that you could improve and/or do better, this is not bad, in fact, it is the point of the exercise.
    • Continue to consult. Have regular structured and unstructured conversations with your team regarding the controls you have established.
    • Build competency. Ensure that you have an induction program that includes an overview of your safety program and the operational activities that the worker will undertake. Consider assigning a “buddy” to “new” and/or “young” workers.
    • Ensure your safety program 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. Software programs like Safety Champion Software will support visibility of your health and safety program, guide and remind you when deadlines and key milestones approach.
    • Considering safety when engaging contractors. Workplaces often engage contractors to support processes that the workplace is not familiar with, which often means new hazards are introduced to the workplace. Prior to engaging contractors, along with price, seek information from the contract to understand how they will help you maintain a safe working environment when they are onsite.
    • Consider safety as part of your procurement process. Before you buy anything, consider the safety implications. Don’t limit this to equipment, machinery, computers – extended this to services as well. Don’t make safety an afterthought.

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

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

    Newly released health and safety codes and legislation – January 2020

    Workplace Exposure Standards

    Safe Work Australia has been working to review and update the workplace exposure standards (WES) for airborne contaminates.

    Recent updates include:

    • Respirable crystalline silica dust has been reduced to 0.05 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours.
    • Respirable coal dust will be reduced to a time weighted average (TWA) of 1.5 mg/m3

    Each jurisdiction needs to decide when the exposure standards will be introduced.

    Check out Safe Work Australia’s progress with the full review here:


    Updated GHS Revision

    The adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Revision 7 has been agreed by Safe Work Australia Members at their November 2019 meeting. The GHS Revision 7 ensure Australia is adopting best practice.

    The replacement of GHS Revision 3 is expected to take place from July 2020 with a 2-year transition period to the GHS Revision 7.

    Check out Safe Work Australia’s website for more information:


    Return to Work Strategy

    Safe Work Australia has released a national 10-year action plan to ambitiously improve return to work outcomes across Australia.

    See more about this plan here:





    Concrete Pumping | Code of Practice | December 2019:


    Electrical Safety Works | Code of Practice | January 2020:


    Electrical Safety – Electrical Equipment Rural Industry Code of Practice | Code of Practice | January 2020:


    Electrical Safety – Working Near Overhead and Underground Electric Lines | Code of Practice | January 2020:





    Victoria has introduced the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019. This amendment will commence in July 2020,  but may commence earlier at the government’s direction.

    A duty holder will be guilty of a proposed offence if the relevant conduct: 

    • is “negligent” 
    • constitutes a breach of an existing duty under the OHS Act, and 
    • causes the death of a person at or near a workplace. 

    Conduct being an act or omission of an act that occurred before of after the amendment to legislation. Conduct is negligent when there is a great falling short of the standard a reasonable person would have taken and the conduct involves a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.

    The Bill – click here

    Explanatory Memorandum – click here

    Workplace Exposure Standards

    Silica: The exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica dust has been reduced to 0.05 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours. Effective from 17 December 2019


    Western Australia


    The Work Health Safety Bill 2019 was introduced to the Legislative Assembly on the 27th of November and is expected to be implemented by mid 2020 along with updated Work Health Safety Regulations. The Legislative Assembly next meets on 11 February 2020

    The Bill is based on the national Work Health Safety Act. The Bill contains provisions for Industrial Manslaughter, Prohibition against insurance from monetary penalties and Duty of Care provisions for WHS service providers.

    The WHS Bill will replace three current acts:

    • the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984
    • Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994; and 
    • Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Safety Levies Act 2011

    The Bill as introduced – click here

    Explanatory Memorandum presented in the Legislative Assembly – click here


    Northern Territory


    The Northern Territory passed the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Amendment Bill 2019 on the 27 November 2019. The Bill amends the legislation to include the offence of industrial manslaughter. There has been no

    The Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Amendment Bill 2019:



    New South Wales


    Amendments to the Work Health Safety Act have been proposed through the Work Health and Safety Amendment (Review) Bill 2019 which, if passed, they will address a number of the recommendations from the Boland report.

    The key amendments include:

    • The prohibition of insurance against WHS fines.
    • Include an alternative fault element, lowering the required degree of a breach from reckless to gross negligence.
    • Maximum penalties increase, through the adoption of a penalty unit system.
    • A added note to make it clear that a workplace death may also constitute manslaughter under the Crimes Act 1900 and may be prosecuted under that Act.
    • Provisions for the sharing of personal information between Health and Safety Regulators across jurisdictions, in relation to incident investigations.

    Want to have a say?

    A public comment period is currently open to provide views and submissions for the committee to consider:


    In addition, amendments to the Work Health Safety Regulation were effective from 15 November 2019. See the details here:


    Explanatory statement – click here


    South Australia

    Workplace Exposure Standards

    The exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica dust has been reduced to 0.05 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours. Effective from 1 July 2020.



     No updates.


    Australian Capital Territory

    No updates.


    For past updates to codes and legislation through 2018-2019, review this blog;


    OPINION | From Little Things Big Things Grow – Measuring the Return on Safety Investment

    By Stephen Pehm | Senior Consultant

    The unfolding bushfire situation across the eastern seaboard of Australia has been devastating for many.

    One thing to emerge has been that a significant number of people who were impacted by these fires were not adequately prepared for their severity. Hence these people lost a significantly greater amount possessions and property.

    Yet, we can draw lessons from this and other disasters. The lesson is undoubtedly about being better prepared for the unexpected.

    Start planning and preparing

    How can we move from not planning, to planning for scenarios, and then building strategies to manage the consequence?

    Undoubtedly, the question that should, and will be, asked is:

    How will this preparation add benefit to the bottom line of our business?

    Yes, it can be hard to justify expenditure when there is no readily discernible benefit.

    However, to quantify such a benefit, we should consider the direct costs associated with a workplace incident.

    Direct costs can include:

    • Workers compensation payments – premium increases from direct claims costs/estimates and poorer insurance performance;
    • Medical expenses;
    • Civil liability damages – civil law claims payments made by victims of the accident
    • Litigation expenses
    • Property / damages losses

    On top of this, the indirect costs can be significant, and occur due to:

    • business disruption
    • lowered worker moral
    • loss of experience and skills.

    A survey of financial decision makers whose organisations had experienced an injured worker(s) was undertaken in the USA in 2011. Results showed that the average indirect cost was $2.12 for every $1 spent on direct injury related costs.

    In developing a business case for safety expenditure, the indirect incident related costs should be considered.

    Safety expenditure can indeed take many forms

    These can range from:

    • Structural spending: required by all businesses to attain adequate protection from generic hazards such as emergencies
    • Specific expenditure: to identified areas of potential risk before that harm eventuates (for example addressing faulty equipment, worker mental health, etc.).

    Expenditure can include (but not be limited to) purchase of safety equipment, development of safe working procedures, or implementation of associated training.

    Benefits to the business from safety expenditure are often hard to quantify

    In attempting to quantify this the timeframe of the expenditure return need to be considered (e.g. return in 1 year, or 2 years, etc.).

    Multiple studies have estimated a savings return, from safety expenditure. These include:

    In 2018, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published an economic analysis of 19 randomised, employer-driven interventions outlined in studies from 2005 to 2016. Results showed that 11 were cost-effective. Of the interventions identified as not cost-effective, a majority focused on individual – and not organisational – levels (J Occupational Environmental Medicine. 2018 Feb; 60(2): 147–166).

    A summary report produced by Safe Work Australia in 2014 concluded that, in broad terms, research supports the proposition that investments in stronger WHS practices will provide a positive return on investment. This is said to occur through reduced costs associated with poor WHS outcomes and improved productivity, or other outcomes that add value to the business (Safe Work Australia: Workplace Health and Safety, Business Productivity and Sustainability). 

    In the area of positive worker mental health programs, recent research by Deloitte in Canada revealed that the median yearly ROI on mental health programs was CA$1.62 among companies that provided at least three years’ worth of data. With companies whose programs had been in place for three or more years providing a median yearly ROI of CA$2.18. (Deloitte Insights (2019). The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business A blueprint for workplace mental health programs).

    Clearly much time and attention has gone into estimating the financial impacts of health, safety and wellbeing initiatives.

    Whilst this work may indicate the willingness of industry to partake in such activities stemming from the bottom line and not from a position of care and responsibility for their people, it is nonetheless a useful thing to understand.

    The long and the short of it is; We can – and must – be better prepared to confront the safety challenges we face in our places of work. If only to ensure that our people, our peers, and our friends remain healthy and safe at work.

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

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


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


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



    What is silicosis?

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


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


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



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



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


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


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



    Who is at risk?

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


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


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


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



    Where can silica be found?

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


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


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


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

    Reconstituted stone (eg, Caesarstone, Quantum Quartz, Smartstone) More than 90%
    Sandstone 70% to 90%
    Granite 25% to 40%
    Slate 20% to 40%
    Marble Less than 5 %

    Source: WorkSafe Victoria



    Practical controls you can put in place

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


    What are your legal responsibilities?

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

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




    Victorian Amendments 

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

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

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

    What does this really mean?

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

    What are the controls you must be across?

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

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

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

    Air and health monitoring – yes or no?

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

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

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

    If you don’t comply?

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

    If you require assistance

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