April 2017 – Newsletter

Before the Easter Break!

As we go into the succession of short weeks, starting with Easter I thought it was timely to reflect on the year so far.

It has been a year of extremes, with weather and impacts on businesses, workers, and consumers. Short weeks always bring with them “urgency” to maintain work flow and customer satisfaction for delivery of goods and services.

With this always comes “corner cutting” and “quick fixes” around risk management and compliance.

There has been several serious incidents reported this month alone, and most, I would confidently say, were avoidable, caused by a moment of “lost concentration” or “quick fix” for a normally rigorous safety process / procedure.

So, thought we should share some of the “outcomes” that you can use as a tool box or meeting topic with the team.

Coffs Harbour company fined $250k after work experience student’s fingers were crushed

A Coffs Harbour manufacturer has been fined $250,000 after a work experience student’s hand was crushed in machinery.

The 17-year-old student was undertaking work experience at Thermal Electric Elements in Toormina in August 2014.He had been removing metal strips from a brake press when he accidentally activated the machine’s knife. The tips of two of his fingers were crushed and had to be amputated.

An investigation by Safe Work New South Wales (as per our WHSQ Inspectors) found the company had failed to provide proper guarding on the machine by changing its settings, so it did not automatically shut down when objects got too close to it. The report also found a general lack of instruction, training, information, and supervision of the student.

“This has left a young worker with lifelong injuries,” stated the judge. “Setting the machine so that it operated while body parts were near the knife was an action that created significant health and safety risks to workers. This court decision sends a strong message to the business community, of the need to protect young and vulnerable workers so that tragic incidents like this do not occur.

Safety Guarding is a very simple way to protect workers from being seriously injured or killed

Recommend: A good time to check the guarding on machines around your workplace!!

We can become complacent about what is happening in and around or businesses and workplace, so though it was timely we revisited obligations and roles. Take the check and see how you would “rate” if you were required to show your “due diligence” is being met:

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes a specific duty on officers of corporations and unincorporated bodies, such as clubs and associations, to exercise due diligence to ensure that it meets its work health and safety obligations. The duty requires officers to be proactive in ensuring that the corporation, club, or association complies with its duty.

What is due diligence? (Governance)

In demonstrating due diligence, officers will need to show that they have taken reasonable steps to:

  • acquire and update their knowledge of health and safety matters
  • understand the operations being carried out by the person conducting the business or undertaking in which they are employed, and the hazards and risks associated with the operations
  • ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) has, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimize health and safety risks arising from work being done
  • ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes in place to receive and respond promptly to information regarding incidents, hazards, and risks
  • ensure that the PCBU has, and uses, processes for complying with duties or obligations under the WHS Act.

This approach emphasises the corporate governance responsibilities of officers. It is critical to the achievement of positive safety outcomes for senior management to lead the corporate safety agenda.

Demonstrating due diligence

The due diligence criteria listed in the WHS Act, with suggestions on how to meet them are as follows:

  1. Acquiring knowledge of health and safety issues
  • acquire up-to-date knowledge of the WHS Act, regulations, and codes of practice
  • investigate current industry issues through conferences, seminars, information and awareness sessions, industry groups, newsletters
  • acquire up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety management principles and practices
  • ensure that work health and safety matters are considered at each corporation, club or association board meeting.

   2. Understanding operations and associated hazards and risks

  • develop a plan of the operation that identifies hazards in core activities
  • ensure that information is readily available to other officers and workers about procedures to ensure the safety of specific operations that pose health and safety risks in the workplace
  • continuously improving the Safety Management System

  3. Ensuring that appropriate resources and processes are used to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety

  • establish and maintain safe methods of work
  • implement a safety management system
  • recruit personnel with appropriate skills, including safety personnel
  • ensure staffing levels are adequate for safety in operations
  • give safety personnel access to decision makers for urgent issues
  • maintain and upgrade infrastructure.

      4. Implementing processes for receiving and responding to information about incidents, hazards and risks

  • employ a risk management process
  • have efficient, timely reporting systems
  • empower workers to cease unsafe work and request better resources
  • establish processes for considering/ responding to information about incidents, hazards and risks in a timely fashion
  • measure against positive performance indicators to identify deficiencies (e.g. a percentage of issues actioned within agreed timeframe).

     5. Establishing and maintaining compliance processes

  • undertake a legal compliance audit of policies, procedures and practices
  • testing policies, procedures and practices to verify compliance with safety management planning.

Verifying the provision and use of the resources mentioned in steps 1-5.

You will need to ensure there is a system in place that records and provides evidence of the matters mentioned in steps 1-5. So how did you rate???

There are also advantages for businesses and undertakings in retaining a trained safety advisor (although not mandatory) to assist an officer to satisfy their due diligence obligations.

Maintaining a role for a trained safety advisor will:

  • promote a positive work health and safety culture by sending a clear message that health and safety is valued by the business
  • support officers in meeting their due diligence requirements
  • ensure safety information is updated
  • be a cost-effective way of demonstrating due diligence.

However, it is important to note the duty to exercise due diligence will always remain with the officer and cannot be outsourced or delegated to a trained safety advisor. Employing a trained safety advisor is only one option to help officers meet their duties.

I hope that you found it timely to revisit some of the points raised in this update.

We are more than happy to work with you to ensure your compliance is maintained, and that you meet your obligations, but more importantly to ensure your workers are safe and go home in the same condition they came to work in!!! This should be the real reason for updating your safety management systems and plans.

If you need to discuss any of the points we have raised through this update, please feel free to contact us and happy to discuss further, even if it is to let us know how “well” you rated in your due diligence check!

Until next time.

Stay safe and well.


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