Category: What Nobody Told Me

What Nobody Told Me Series Blogs

What Nobody Told Me – Risk Assessments

The question of do I need to do a risk assessment before undertaking a work activity is a common one in workplaces far and wide around all states and territories in Australia. So, with that I have prepared this blog to provide some clarity on the question of do I need to carry out a risk assessment before undertaking a work activity.

While like many OHS or legal matters, I cannot give definite answers in this blog I can provide you with some information that will help you identify whether you a risk assessment does or does not need to be conducted based on the individual circumstances of your work activity.

A risk assessment should be done when:

  • There is only limited knowledge about a hazard or risk, or about how the risk may result in injury or illness.
  • There is uncertainty about whether all of the things that can go wrong have been found.
  • The work activity involves a number of different hazards that are part of the same work process or piece of plant and there is a lack of understanding about how the hazards may impact upon each other to produce new or greater risks.
  • Changes at the workplace occur that may impact on the effectiveness of control measures.

A risk assessment is mandatory under the WHS Regulations for certain activities that are high risk such as, but not limited to, entry into confined spaces, diving work and live electrical work.

Some hazards that have exposure standards, such as noise and airborne contaminants, may require scientific testing or measurement by a competent person to accurately assess the risk and to check that the relevant exposure standard is not being exceeded (for example, by using noise meters to measure noise levels and using gas detectors to analyse oxygen levels in confined spaces).

A risk assessment may not be required when:

  • OHS laws require some hazards or risks to be controlled in a specific way – these requirements must be complied with
  • Other laws require specific risk controls to be implemented, e.g. gas and electrical safety and dangerous goods laws – these requirements must be complied with
  • A compliance code, code of practice or other Worksafe/Safework guidance sets out a way of controlling a hazard or risk and the guidance is applicable to the situation – this guidance can simply be followed.
  • There are well known and accepted controls that are in widespread use in the particular industry that are suited to the circumstances in the workplace and provide acceptable control of the hazards or risks – these controls can simply be implemented.

A risk assessment may be appropriate to reuse in situations where all the hazards, tasks, things, workers or circumstances are the same and no worker or other person will be exposed to greater, additional or different risks. However, as stated above, if there are any changes at the workplace, a new risk assessment should be performed.

There are common events in the life of an organisation when a risk assessment should be done. These events typically result in a lack of understanding about OHS hazards and risks or what needs to be done to control them.

Please see below for a list of common events that should trigger a formal risk assessment:

  • Commencing a new business from scratch
  • Purchasing a new business
  • Appointment of an insolvency administrator to a business administration
  • When there are changes in the work done, changes in the work environment, etc.
  • Purchasing new or used equipment or hiring equipment, or using new substances and processes
  • Planning for the impact of new OHS legislation
  • Responding to incidents
  • Responding to issues
  • To justify an alternative to recognised practices

References:

WorkSafe Victoria – Controlling OHS hazards & risks – A handbook for workplaces

Model Code of Practice – How to manage work health and safety risks

Note: This blog does not constitute legal advice and advice around risk assessments specific to your work activity should be sought before undertaking work activities.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

What Nobody Told Me – Industrial Manslaughter

OHS, OHS Melbourne, Industrial Manslaughter, OHS Consultant, OHS Consultant Melbourne

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.

The Victorian Parliament has created Australia’s highest safety fine and made Victoria the third Australian jurisdiction to make industrial manslaughter a criminal offense.

Where are the new laws & Who so the laws apply to?

The new industrial manslaughter laws have been added to the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act) and will apply to employers, designers, manufacturers, self-employed persons as well as officers. The laws apply to all businesses irrespective of size.

The new laws will introduce maximum fines of approx. $16.5m for employers and jail terms of up to 20 years and fines of up to $1.65m for officers whose actions or omissions:

  • cause the death of a worker or member of the public;
  • involve a breach of an OHS duty;
  • were negligent

Where there are principle contractors and contractors involved in a workplace they will both have duties and they will be identified on a case by case basis.

The accused must be/or circumstances must involve:

  • A body corporate and not a person who is an employee or volunteer
  • Must owe a duty pursuant to sections 21-24 & sections 26-31 of the OHS Act 2004
  • Must have breached the duty with a criminal offence where there is a high risk of death or injury
  • The act causing the death must have been carried out consciously
  • There must be a death

How is negligence defined?

The negligence standard is the criminal negligence standard and applies where there is a great falling short of the care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances in which the conduct was engaged in, and involves a high risk of death or serious injury or serious illness.

Who is an Officer?

An officer – Defined on a case by case basis. Typically a person who has the means to affect a safe work culture via day to day control over work processes and resources. An officer is typically somebody senior in the business must have a contribution to the significant company decisions.

What should businesses do now?

It is important to note that if you comply with the legislation now you will comply after July 1 the new laws are an increase in consequence change not a duty change and all existing laws pre 1st July 2020 will still apply post 1st July 2020.

However, it is important for businesses that they continued to ensure adequate OHS systems, instruction, training, supervision and also place a heavy focus on worker engagement and a strong safety culture within the organisation.

Now is a good time to review your organisations workplaces and processes. The steps you should look at taking include:

  • Reviewing all the potential hazards and risks in the workplace and ensuring that these risks are assessed and controls implemented.
  • Completing a formal review of all the safety systems and controls currently in place and ensure they are fully effective
  • Reviewing OHS leadership and culture to ensure that any alleged negligent conduct is not authorised or permitted by the company or culture;
  • Education and awareness for directors, senior officers and managers on the new legislation and offences;
  • Reviewing incident action plans and responses
  • Self-employed persons must consider how their business effects the safety people
  • Designers and manufacturers must design and make safe equipment

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

What Nobody Told Me – Working From Home

OHS, OHS Melbourne, Ergonomics, OHS Consultant

While working at home may be a new concept for some industries and job roles many employers have been adopting and implementing work from home employment agreements since cloud computing and high speed internet have become common place within industries.

With the recent uptrend in working from home even before the COVID-19 came about there have been some experience based learning’s that we can share with you. If adopted with the right attitude working from home does provide opportunities for business improvements and may result in some innovative new practices within businesses moving into the future.

Establishing a Routine

It is important that you keep yourself in a regular morning routine so that your in the right frame of mind for work. i.e. shower, get dressed for the day, eat breakfast just as if you were leaving the house to go to work.

Those lucky enough to have a spare room or enough space for a dedicated workstation should set up a workstation in these areas. As much as possible try and minimise distractions, ensure comfortable seating (more on this later) and have natural light. Try to avoid working in the same space as where you sleep.

Create a schedule just as you would at work and take regular breaks. Hand out the washing, walk around the block or just make a coffee or cup or tea, all of these things will refresh your mind. Also, it is important to ensure all persons living with you are aware that you work from home and some house rules or structure are set that all persons can respect.

Ergonomic considerations

It is important to ensure your workstation is set up safely in order to reduce aches and pain associated with working at a desk.

We assist companies manage this workplace safety issue and have developed a workstation self-assessment form to guide managers and persons undertaking work at desks to implement adequate controls to reduce risks. We are happy to share this resource with you: Workstation Self-Assessment

When working off a laptop of using a non-height adjustable chair you may need to be creative. Some of the ‘out side the box’ controls listed below may be of use to you.

  • Access an external wireless keyboard and mouse to increase posture flexibility
  • Raise your screen to eye level
  • Introduce a sit stand desk or duel screen
  • Use pillows or a rolled up towel to provide lumbar support
  • Increase your chair height
  • Placing a stool on the ground so your feel have a surface to rest on

 Mental Health

One of the most underestimated challenges when working from home is mental health and the often unexpected sense of isolation people can feel. We humans are a social species and need to feel connected.

While you wont have the coffee machine or water cooler for 5 minute chats when working from home there are other ways of staying connected. Here are a few ideas:

  • Scheduled work team conference calls with video where possible
  • Sychronised coffee or lunch breaks with work colleagues
  • Work group Whats app, Facebook Messenger or just plain old group texts

Our Working From Home Support Services Include:

  • Remote workstation assessments including interviews or video call sessions.
  • Working from home policies and procedures
  • Setting up your workstation procedure

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

What Nobody Told Me – SWMS Vs JSA

SWMS, JSA OHS Consultant

When working with clients time and time again we are asked to clarify when a task requires a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) or a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and what is the difference between a SWMS and a JSA.

With that in mind I have prepared the below comparison table which helps to identify when each type of document should be used and what the differences between the documents are.

SWMS

JSA

Must be in place for tasks involving high risk work as per the OHS Regulations Should be in place for tasks that do not involve high risk work
Should include legislation, codes of practice and Australian standards referencing Does not need to include legislation, codes of practice and Australian standards referencing
Should include the address and ABN of the company submitting the SWMS Does not need to include the address and ABN of the company submitting the JSA
Should include a risk matrix where no two risk scores repeat themselves. (5×5 matrix – 1-25 risk scores recommended) A basic risk matrix is required (3×3 – H,M,L matrix is acceptable)
Should include required training, equipment, hazardous substances, PPE and permits required to complete the task in specific requirement identification sections. Should include required training, equipment, hazardous substances, PPE and permits required to complete the task in the risk control measures sections.
Job step, task process, possible hazards, initial risk score, risk control measures, residual risk score and control responsibility should be detailed. Task process, possible hazards, risk control measures, control responsibility and risk score should be detailed.
Additional blank sections should be included in the rear of the document in the event that the task changes and additional safety control measures are required. Additional blank sections should be included in the rear of the document in the event that the task changes and additional safety control measures are required.
Must be communicated to and signed by all persons undertaking the listed tasks. Must be communicated to and signed by all persons undertaking the listed tasks.

 

I expect the workplace debates on whether a task requires a SWMS or a JSA to rage on into the future but I hope readers of this basic comparison can identify what type of risk control tool they should be using and what the document should include.

Posted By: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

 

What Nobody Told Me – OHS Don’ts

index

Don’t conduct high risk tasks without written work methods

Australian OHS/WHS law identifies area of work that is classified as High Risk. Where work carried out by companies comes under the category of high risk, written work methods with sequential task identification, associated hazards, initial risk ratings, controls, residual risk rating and a responsible person must be prepared and in place. The document is commonly referred to as a Safe Work Method Statement.

Don’t ignore accidents resulting in injury no matter how minor they may appear

Minor accidents resulting in injury if left untreated can escalate. If insurers are not notified of injuries they may not accept the claim meaning the company may have to cover the costs themselves. Employers also have a duty to report accidents that are classified as ‘serious’ under Worksafe guidelines to Worksafe for further investigation and follow up action consideration. Failure to report accidents is an offense and can result in considerable fines and penalties.

Don’t presume materials or equipment has adequate safe working load capacities

Materials and equipment safe work load capacities can vary depending on the manufacturer and the place of manufacture. Although materials and equipment from different manufacturers may look the same the safe working load capacities can vary so the specific specifications should always be checked prior to use.

Don’t skip plant or equipment servicing, maintenance or inspection intervals

Australian OHS/WHS law outlines that all plant & equipment must be maintained. It is important that companies with the responsibility of maintaining plant and equipment develop maintenance schedules and conduct maintenance as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Don’t develop detailed OHS procedures, plans & written work methods and not inspect and maintain them throughout the job

Companies place a lot of focus on OHS management in the preliminary or pre-start stage of projects and this focus can often times ware off as the works progress. It is important that project teams keep their focus on OHS management as works progress and not just at the start when the OHS management documents are being developed.

Posted by: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

 

What Nobody Told Me – OHS Do’s

OHS Consultant, OHS Melbourne

Conduct Company Inductions

The OHS/WHS Acts of all states require that employees are provided with information with regards to the job they will be undertaken. The best time to do an induction is the time directly before the employee start work. It’s also a good idea to do other pre-start tasks like tax and payment details collection and the issue of any specialised work equipment.

Prepare & Communicate Written Work Instructions

The OHS/WHS Acts of all states require that employees are provided with instruction with regards to the job they will be undertaking. When taking into account the what both the employer and the employee needs to get out of work instructions the most appropriate way to manage the process is through the preparation and communication of written work instructions.

Have an Accident Reporting System

Employers have a duty to record & report accidents under workplace laws or alternatively face legal action. Employers also have a duty under agreements with insurers to record and report accidents or face there insurance cover being declared null and void by the insurer. It is important that an accident reporting system is in place and properly implemented.

Have a Risk Management Procedure

Employers are required under the OHS/WHS to provide employees with a safe place of work. Arguments between builders, contractors and employees occur every day in Australian workplaces as to what exactly a safe place of work is? In order to manage the process of managing risks and to help provide a safe place of work a risk management procedure should be in place and properly implemented.

Have a Competent Person Regularly Inspect Work Areas

Workplaces change. No matter how well managed work processes are or how well the procedures are implemented the fact is materials are brought out/in, rearranged or redeveloped. Having a competent person available to regularly inspect the work area for risks can greatly reduce the likelihood and consequences of an accident/incident occurring.

Posted by: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

What Nobody Told Me – Hiring an OHS Consultant

5 things to Consider

Placing your company’s OHS management into the wrong hands can lead to accident’s resulting in injury and/or property damage, inconvenient and avoidable work stoppages and contract delays where clients expect a high level of compliance from contractors. It pays to do your due diligence when choosing an OHS consultancy. Within this article we discuss 4 critical components in choosing the right OHS consultant for your business.

1.      Reputation & Quality of Work

Outsourcing your OHS management may have a lot of benefits, but it can also be a significant risk if not put into the right hands. You want an OHS consultancy whom can deliver what’s required with a high level of quality and whom you can trust and establish a long term relationship with. The types of questions you may want to ask include:

  • Do they have any solid client references from other similar sized clients like you?
  • What success stories can they share?
  • What industries do they get majority of their business from?
  • What areas do they specialise in?

2.      Customer Service & Support

Customer service during the purchase phase is paramount and all good professional service providers will assist in the planning, development, training, trouble shooting, maintenance and upgrading of a service. You should expect to receive a detailed proposal in writing for large jobs or a quotation in writing for smaller jobs. The types of questions that should be answered in the proposal/quotation prior to project completion include:

  • Job Delivery Time frame
  • Fixed Fee Guarantee
  • Professional Indemnity & Insurance
  • Confidentiality
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Exclusions
  • Availability

 3.      Pricing & Fee Structures

In the OHS consulting services industry it is common place for OHS service providers to charge ‘day rates’ without giving an accurate assessment of how long (or short) a job might be. This ‘open cheque book’ type of fee structure has turned many businesses away from using OHS consultants in the past as they experienced job over runs and often pay far in excess that what was originally forecast. The types of questions you may want to ask include:

  • Do you provide a fixed all inclusive job proposal/quotation?
  • Can you set and guarantee a job completion date?
  • Do you take on jobs under $500 in value?

4.      Responsiveness & Dependability

Business moves fast. With that you need to have professional service providers such as accountants, IT and finance brokers to be both responsive and dependable. OHS consulting is no different and you need a provider that can solve your issue or assist your efforts when the time arises in the quality expected from a professional service provider.

Posted by: Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

What Nobody Told Me – Plant Risk Assessments

Plant Risk Assessment

Step 1 – Inspect the plant

When identifying hazards, you should think about all the activities that may be carried out during the life of the plant at your workplace, such as installation, commissioning, operation, inspection, maintenance, repair, transport, storage and dismantling. For each of these activities, you should consider whether:

  • the plant could cause injury due to entanglement, falling, crushing, trapping, cutting, puncturing, shearing, abrasion or tearing
  • the plant could create hazardous conditions due to harmful emissions, fluids or gas under pressure, electricity, noise, radiation, friction, vibration, fire, explosion, moisture, dust, ice, hot or cold parts, and
  • the plant could cause injury due to poor ergonomic design—for example, if operator controls are difficult to reach or require high force to operate.

Step 2 – Assess the risks

To assess the risk associated with plant hazards you have identified, you should consider:

What is the potential impact of the hazard?

  • How severe could an injury or illness be? For example, lacerations, amputation, serious or fatal crushing injury, burns
  • What is the worst possible harm the plant hazard could cause?
  • How many people are exposed to the risk?

How likely is the hazard to cause harm?

  • Could it happen at any time or would it be a rare event?
  • How frequently are workers exposed to the hazard?

Step 3 – Control the risks

The ways of controlling the risks associated with plant are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of risk control. This may involve a single control measure or a combination of two or more different controls.

Hierarchy of Control

Step 4 – Review the risk control measures

You should consult your workers to obtain feedback on the plant and work processes being used and consider the following questions:

  • Are the control measures, for example guards, working effectively in both their design and operation?
  • Have all hazards associated with the plant been identified?
  • Has the purchase of a new item of plant made the job safer?
  • Are safety procedures being followed?
  • Has an incident occurred in relation to the plant?
  • If new legislation or new information becomes available, does it indicate current controls may no longer be the most effective?

This article was taken in part from Safe Work Australia ‘Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace’ Draft Code of practice we hope you found it informative.

Posted by Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au

What Nobody Told Me – Site Safety Inspections

site inspection OHS Inspection  safety walks,

Step 1 – Find the Hazards

Start by talking. It’s a legal requirement that safety is discussed in workplaces, and you gain great insights into safety issues and solutions from your workers.

Regularly scheduled meetings, such as tool box talks, production meetings, team meetings are a great way of identifying safety issues.

Make a list of the possible hazards workers are exposed to on site.

Not all injuries are immediately obvious. Some are only discovered over time, such as illnesses caused by long-term exposure to certain chemicals so consider whether these are a hazard in your workplace.

Go through any injury records you have (if you don’t currently have a register of injuries start one now – it’s legally required that you keep one). You’ll be able to see if any problem areas exist, or if any patterns are emerging.

Step 2 – Assess the Risks

After you’ve made your list of possible hazards you need to make a judgment about the seriousness of each hazard, and decide which hazard requires the most urgent attention.

Take a close look at each item on your list. What is the possible outcome if things go wrong?

Are we talking about scratches and bruises, or is there potential for someone to be seriously injured or even killed?

Is it an everyday thing, or something that only comes up now and then, giving you more time to find a solution? Are there things you can do right now, as a short term fix, while you work out a permanent solution?

Once you’ve worked out which hazards have the greatest potential to cause injury or disease, or are a risk to public safety, mark them as your high priority hazards. After that, rank them in priority order from highest to lowest.

Step 3 – Fix the Problems

When you’ve prioritised the hazards on your list, you need to start immediately on the most important step of all – fixing the problems.

Your first aim should be to totally remove the risk. For example, if the risk involves a hazardous chemical, try to find a safe alternative to the chemical. If there is a slipping or tripping hazard in your workplace, see if it can be removed.

If it’s not possible to totally remove a risk, you need to find ways to control it. You might have to alter the way certain jobs are done, change work procedures, or as a last resort provide protective equipment.

You’ll often find there are simple solutions to many of the hazards in your workplace. Most of them will be inexpensive, and some will cost nothing at all. Of course, sometimes there are no straightforward solutions.

There are a number of options you can take in that event:

Check Worksafe publications, alerts and guidance for your industry topics and see if there is a documented solution to the problem.

Talk to other businesses in your industry to see how they handled similar problems.

Seek assistance from the principal contractor on site on how to go about solving the issue (if applicable)

Seek professional advice from consultants or industry associations.

This article was taken in part from the Worksafe Victoria ‘Do Your Own Inspection’ webpage

Posted by Cathal Uniacke – cathal@custodiansafety.com.au