Category: OHS Management

OHS management related blogs

Are You GHS Ready?

OHS, OHS Consultant, OHS Melbourne

From the 1st January 2017 new labeling for workplace hazardous chemicals is required.

The Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is a United Nations initiative that standardises chemical classification, labelling and safety data sheets (SDS) for use in workplaces internationally.

To meet the new requirements manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals will need to reclassify their products, relabel them and prepare new safety data sheets.

To meet the new requirements manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals will need to reclassify their products, relabel them and prepare new safety data sheets.

The GHS changes include using a common set of pictograms, signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements for labels and SDS to communicate information about a chemical to the user. It covers physical, health and environmental hazards.

For persons conducting a business or undertaking, essential tasks for GHS readiness include:

  • reviewing current inventory holdings for GHS compliant and non-compliant stock
  • allowing holdings of GHS non-compliant stock to run down
  • ensuring all new purchases are GHS compliant
  • reviewing SDS to ensure hazard management practices are in place
  • ensuring workers are aware of the new labelling system and SDS.

In WA, VIC & ACT the GHS classification has not been mandated yet but the hazards associated with using  chemicals still need to be communicated to workers and companies in the aforementioned states may be wise to implement the changes now to keep up with the rest of the country.

Posted by Cathal Uniacke –

Dogman Required?

ohs, dogman, rigging, ohs melbourne

The debate over whether a dogman is required to sling and lift loads in Australian workplaces has raged on and on countrywide for quite some time now.

Every week you can rest assured that a workplace manager and a client/contractor or employees are at odds about the requirement of a dogman to sling and lift loads.

Unfortunately if we are to consider the issue of dogman requirements across all Australian workplaces and in all Australian states there is no definite yes/no answer to the issue.

If a dogman is needed in ‘every instance of lifting a load’ then every nurse in every hospital and aged care facility should have dogman training which is currently not the case. However, in many construction sites and steel foundry’s dogman training is a pre requisite prior to performing any load slinging/lifting.

Is a bundle of steel being lifted and the persons below any more critical that a patient and a nearby nurse?

rigging, dogman, ohs melbourne, ohs

To help with this commonly encountered workplace dilemma here are a few notes on Dogman requirements we always use to provide direction:

  • If there needs to be an assessment made as to the weight of the load, a dogman is required.
  • If there is a need to make a selection of the lifting equipment (sling/chain) needed to lift the object a dogman is required.
  • If there is a need to work out where and how the lifting chain/sling is to be attached to the load a dogman is required.
  • If the load leaves the sight of the person operating the crane/hoist and whistles or radio signals are used a dogman is required.

The exact requirements on whether a dogman is required or not will continue to vary from state to state based on legislation and industry to industry based on expectations but hopefully you might find these short notes useful.

Posted by Cathal Uniacke –

Safety Culture – Where to Next?

Safety Culture

In 1993 the UK Health and Safety Commission defined safety culture as:

“The safety culture of an organisation is the product of individual and group values, attitudes,Perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management. Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.”

This definition of Safety Culture has been widely accepted in Australia ever since and was recently cited in the SIA’s Core Body of Knowledge publication in October 2014.

However, the effectiveness of ‘safety culture’ within organisations with regards to the reduction of workplace accidents and injuries has continued to come under the spotlight in recent times.

At an event focusing on OHS I attended recently a university professor at RMIT stated that ‘safety culture is not something that exists or is something that prevents accidents, organisations must work on fixing organisational and management procedures – if they act on this they will fix the problem.’

Another professor, Patrick Hudson has a more positive view on safety culture and in a recent virtual seminar for Safe Work Australia he likens organisational culture to a game of snakes and ladders—we can climb up but also slide down.

He outlines the key components in distinguishing if an organisation has a healthy safety culture is whether it is proactive or reactive with regards to its OHS management and its senior leadership.

He also states that ‘climbing the ladder’ is harder that company’s think but the good news is that his never encountered a companies that wants to go down the ladder and if companies do get up to the top everybody benefits.

Peter’s full virtual seminar can be viewed here on the Safe Work Australia website:

My own opinion as an OHS consultant working day in day out with businesses to improve their OHS Management across all levels is that the development of a safety culture is not a quick fix and is certainly a difficult area to focus our efforts on while still offering justifiable value for money for any business within any industry.

Whatever you opinions are on safety culture and its effectiveness within organisations at the moment this is an area where I will be watching with keen interest in the coming year as the debates surrounding the topic continue.

Posted by: Cathal Uniacke –

Current State & Use of SWMS

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The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA), with support of RMIT University conducted a seminar on safety in the construction industry. As with last year’s event Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) dominated the conversation. The frustrations expressed by the crowd were the same as last year – SWMS are demanded for tasks they are not legally required for, they are too big and complex, they are rarely read, they are rarely reviewed and they are written only in English.

It seemed that the audience was waiting for a directive from government on SWMS but the seminar had no speakers from OHS/WHS regulators.

There is little evidence at the moment that SWMS work as intended for non-high risk work although research done recently by Paul Breslin, HSE Manager at Brookfield Multiplex indicates that when SWMS are workable and effective workers like to use them.

The audience also heard how while SWMS are being used for within the construction sector for almost ‘everything’ other sectors with high risk works like manufacturing seem less bound up by SWMS and more on traditional SOP’s for a range of activities. This indicates that the significance of SWMS in construction is high but not a big issue outside of the sector explaining the lack of attention by the regulator.

There has been some voice for moving the current focus of safety in the construction industry away from SWMS and onto the hierarchy of control. This was not discussed at the recent SIA seminar.

Change on the issue of SWMS will only occur when people say no to the demand for SWMS outside their original design and legislative requirement.

The lack of change on the SWMS issue, particularly in Victoria, is a result of everyone waiting for someone else to take the lead on the issue, and no one is.  It is possible that Victoria is feeling uncertain, wayward and leaderless given that its Government has chosen to miss the boat on OHS/WHS harmonisation.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –

Responsibility of Principal Contractors


Should or shouldn’t principal contractors take responsibility of their sub-contractors?

I have worked professionally in Ireland, USA, UK and Australia and the debate over whether or not principal contractors should take responsibility for their chosen sub-contractors has raged on wherever I went.

I attended a Safety Institute of Australia forum at RMIT university campus in Melbourne at the end of last year where the topic of principal contractor responsibility was on the discussion agenda.

Barry Sherriff, OHS lawyer and partner at Norton Rose Fulbright spoke briefly with regards to principal contractors perceived onus that they must supervise sub-contractors “just because you can supervise doesn’t mean you have too….., you are allowed to rely on that contractor to work safely according to recent court decisions in WA and VIC”

It was apparent to me when listening to Barry and the other guest speakers on the day that the interpretation around whether or not principal contractors are responsible for supervising their sub-contractors has shifted to the side of the principals being allowed to rely on their sub-contractors.

So how do you rely on a sub-contractor? A principal contractor can start by ensuring their chosen sub-contractor can provide:

  • Detailed, specific and accurate Safe Work Method Statements for high risk work tasks.
  • Ensuring the SWMS are reviewed when substantial changes to work practices occur.

Also, honestly consider questions like:

  • Are they up to it?
  • Can they develop safe systems of work?
  • Can they implement the safe systems of work?

If not the responsibility must be removed from them as if the principal contractor dives in to take charge mid-way through contracts the principle contractor must wear it in the event of things going south.

One thing that can be established is that sub-contractors are going to need to get on board the OHS management train if they want to be considered as serious contenders for standalone work packages in the coming future.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –

The Liability Bomb


The question of liability is passed between developers, principle builders, managers, contractors and employees like a bomb with a rapidly burning fuse.

Merely ‘passing the buck’ won’t carry much weight in the event of an investigation by the workplace safety watchdog in any Australian state.

Persons in Control of Businesses or Undertakings (PCBU’s can include developers, principle builders, businesses responsible for work premises and others) must be aware that it is not as simple as pointing a finger or ‘passing the buck’ if an accident resulting in injury that occurs at their undertaking is investigated by the workplace safety watchdog. PCBU’s should be aware that they can never completely hold themselves harmless in the eyes of the watchdog.

However, with an effective and well managed Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) management system that clearly identifies the responsibilities of principle builders, senior managers, contractors and employees and requests contractor’s commitments towards OHS in the form of OHS management plans, OHS policies and Safe Work Method Statements.

PCBU’s while never holding themselves harmless can certainly go a long way to sharing the liability of adverse events during sub-contracted parts of their undertaking (project/production cycle) by justifiably obtaining the sub-contractors written commitment to conducting their works safely.

Also, it has been proven that clearly identifying roles, responsibilities and sub-contractor OHS requirements prior to the commencement of any physical works on site notably increases the awareness of OHS requirements and commitments to safe work practices on all levels.

Therefore the liability bomb may never even go off leaving all parties from developer to worker unharmed.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –

Moving Goalposts Mid Game Frustrates All


The Construction Industry is a competitive one. A large project can be a lot like a game of footy with teams consisting of managers, tradesmen and labourers competing and working together to achieve a common goal.

All games need rules and in games rules are monitored and enforced by umpires. In the construction Industry workplace law and standards outline the rules and it is the turn of the safety professional to play the role of umpires in monitoring and enforcing the laws and standards.

However, safety professionals have a different challenge to that of footy umpires as time and time again due to lack of effective communication at the commencement of the game (project) not every team (contractor) is aware of the rules (laws and standards) expected of them until the game has kicked off.

As a result time and time again, safety professionals are seen by contractors as nuisances that move the goalposts (change the rules) after the game (project) has started.

The culture in the construction industry must change so all teams (contractors) know where the goalposts (rules) are before the game (project) starts so safety professionals are not continually seen by contractors as unfair rule changers after the game has already started.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –

4 Reasons Businesses Invest in OHS



It may come as warm and welcome information that in the current Australian business world of high insurance premiums, active and aggressive workplace safety watchdogs and militant and uncompromising worker unions the number one reason our OHS consulting services have been utilised by businesses is the business owners and managers desire to keep their employees and persons under their control safe when at work and ensure they return home to their families and loved ones in the same condition as they left.

Pro-Active Workplace Safety Enforcement Body

Australia and in particular Victoria where we conduct majority of our consulting is home to a very proactive workplace safety enforcement body, Worksafe. In times of high employment, job creation and job growth an efficient and effective workplace watchdog is paramount.

However, as an employer the outcomes of OHS related enforcement notices, fines and court action against businesses can be extremely detrimental to ongoing business, growth and development and can leave a lasting black mark against any business.

Injury Claims Resulting in Increased Insurance Premiums

In business protecting the downside is of key importance. Insurance cover against potential financial losses due to property damage, theft, legal proceedings or worker injury claims is essential.

However lodging insurance claims and in particular worker injury claims which are known to spiral upwards in costs and continue for long periods can have knock on effects with regards to future insurance premiums paid by businesses.

This is due to algorithms being created by the insurance companies for each claim and tagged to the claimant (business). As a business grows so too do the algorithms/s meaning the businesses insurance premium also increases.

Threat of Industrial Action by Unions

Australia and in particular Victoria where we conduct most of our consulting is home to some of the most militant and uncompromising unions. Unions can at times when they are not being heard look to pick holes and find gaps in businesses operating procedures and service equipment with regards to OHS and use these instances of ‘non-compliance’ as political leverage in an attempt to be better heard.

It is important that businesses commence works and maintain works while keeping up with all OHS procedures during operations and maintaining all plant and equipment required during services so to reduce the likelihood of unions focusing on OHS related holes or gaps in their business operations and causing what are sometimes unnecessary delays.

For smart businesses it’s not about the costs of effective OHS management systems and procedures, it’s about the costs of not having effective OHS management and procedures.

 Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –

Importance of Trust in OHS Consulting


As Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Management continues to diversify and evolve it is difficult for OHS consultants/consultancies to constantly remain up to date and current across all industries. I believe it is vitally important for the image of OHS consulting as a whole that when a consultant/consultancy is presented with consulting opportunities that do not fall within their current capabilities that the consultant/consultancy refers the client to a more suited service provider.

This referral has a number of benefits; firstly the client receives a better service with regards to their initial issue, secondly the consultant/consultancy that made the initial contact does not risk damaging their image by working outside of their capabilities and delivering poor service and finally a positive image of consultants/consultancy is maintained or even improved.

Our consultancy recently faced a scenario where a client approached us about the provision of a service outside of our current capabilities. We referred another consultancy within our network whose capabilities matched the client’s needs. This referral resulted in the three benefits listed above. The direct benefit we received was that the OHS consultancy we referred repeated the process and directed a client to us whose needs were within our capabilities. The aforementioned scenario was a win for both clients and consultancy.

Referring clients to other OHS consultancies may not appear too appealing to the consultancy at first, however, with the underlying benefits of doing so apparent, I believe it is important to trust that the referred consultant/consultancy will do the same and create an ongoing win for client and consultancy and reinforce the value of having OHS consultants across all industries.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –

Asbestos in Australia

Asbestos PicAsbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals found in rock formations. Three types of asbestos were mined in Australia: white, blue and brown asbestos.

Asbestos becomes a potential risk to health if fibres are suspended in air and breathed into the lungs. Breathing asbestos fibres into the lungs can cause a range of diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

In Australia, asbestos cement materials were first manufactured in the 1920’s and were commonly used in the manufacture of residential building materials from the mid-1940’s until the late 1980’s. During the 1980’s, asbestos cement materials were phased out in favour of asbestos-free products

Australia banned the use or import of blue and brown asbestos or asbestos products in the mid-1980s, and banned all manufacture or import of white asbestos products in December 2003. From 31 December 2003, the total ban on manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos came into force.

Asbestos fibres are not visible to the naked eye. They are very light, remain airborne for a long time, and can be carried by wind and air currents over large distances.

Employers need to understand the extent of their management or control. For example, if you lease or rent your premises – then you should check your leasing agreement to establish to what extent you may have management or control.

Employers are responsible for additional legal duties in their capacity as an employer in relation to managing asbestos.  For example, employers may have a duty to consult under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 in relation to managing and removing asbestos in in relation to managing and removing asbestos in their workplace.

Asbestos removal work is dangerous, and should always be performed by a Licensed Asbestos Removalist who is trained to remove and dispose of asbestos safely, without risk to you and your employees in the workplace.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke –