In a recent tragic incident a worker was fatally injured when a co-worker drove with his raised forklift into the other worker.
The company had a system in place to ensure that workers were competent to operate and not just holding a ‘ticket’. Training included ensuring traveling with the forklift raised no higher than 30cm. The worker had completed a Competency to Operate (CTO) training and was warned on previous occasions as to this dangerous act.
Companies need to ensure that workers are competent to operate plant and need to set and uphold standards of operation. Even to the point of enforcement and where required as a last option dismissal. Workers need to be told that they have this duty and that the Company is not always in the wrong.
If you are considering implementing a Drug & Alcohol policy in your workplace, there are some considerations that should be worked through prior to the introduction of the policy. Though there is case law available that has supported employer’s decision to terminate a worker, there are as many cases where the worker has overturned this decision due to poor design and implementation of the policy.
However, before getting to a court of law to determine if a termination was just, employers should ensure that their company’s drug and alcohol policies are developed through a consultative approach to assist in defining all the issues and how the process will evolve should a breach be identified.
The Policy should
– clearly define in simple terms what is unacceptable behaviour, including any forms of disciplinary behaviour such as dismissal.
– be part of a structured communication process that ensures a consistent message is given to all workers including new workers, contractors and visitors to site.
– consider precautions to be implemented that consider False Positives and even the possibility of faulty measuring equipment used as part of the initial testing. These units are becoming more precise however they are only indicators of a Non Negative and that a Positive result is only provided from the NATA testing agency. Management reacting too early; victimising or even seen to be punishing a worker at this early stage should be cautioned.
In short when implementing any workplace policy, employers need to ensure the policy is clear, widely and consistently disseminated in an easily to understand format to assist in avoiding any confusion or a HR issue.
Safe Work Australia have launched this year’s National Safe Work month that aims to improve awareness of work health and safety, encourage discussion about safety at work and share positive workplace stories from across Australia.
Safe Work Australia are continuing to support the National Safe Work Month with a range of resources for businesses, by hosting workplace participation reward programs and sharing stories and statistics about work health and safety.
You can be involved in this special initiative by
– Attending events in your workplace or in your local area.
– Downloading the resource kit to help promote the month in your workplace.
– Sharing the National Safe Work Month messages through your online channels.
– Entering the Workplace Participation Reward and showcase your workplace.
– Watching the Safe Work Month video messages.
– Watching free online seminars showcasing the latest thinking, research, developments and best practice in work health and safety, available from October at seminars.swa.gov.au
– Connecting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to find out about local events and to share your safe work month workplace stories. Use the hashtag #safeworkmonth to join the conversation.
Be Part of Safe Work Month and assist in raising awareness about work health and safety within your organisation.
Changes to the WHS Legislation with the Harmonised law appears to be lending more weight to the need for the PCBU to consult, cooperate and coordinate their activities with other PCBUs who have a WHS duty in relation to the same matter, following a recent conviction over a failure to apply WHS Act s46. Consider Boland v Trainee and Apprentice Placement Service Inc  SAIRC 14 where the South Australian Industrial Relations Court have fined a not-for-profit organisation $12,000 for failing to comply with this duty.
There are statements from this case that both parties should not assume that there is a clear understanding of the hazards and who is responsible, if there is no consultation, cooperation and coordination.
Have you identified where more than 1 person has a duty in relation to the same matter and has each person with the duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, consulted, cooperated and coordinated activities with all other persons who have a duty in relation to the same matter? Do you have other PCBU’s interacting in your workplace with your workers? Have you met with this PCBU to discuss the work on site other than receipting the contract, insurances and the obligatory site induction with sign off of the SWMS/JSA?
Any document that is developed as part of a safety management system should be reviewed to ensure that is remains consistent with the legislative requirements. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) should be reviewed at least annually to ensure they accurately reflect the task as it is undertaken, and that it identifies and manages all foreseeable risks associated with the task. If the equipment or the work environment where the SOP is undertaken changes, new plant is introduced, or legislation changes occur relating to the task, then the SOP must be reviewed as soon as possible after the change has occurred. Review your documents regularly to keep them accurate and relevant for your staff.
This is not a new requirement of Health and Safety but a more detailed outline of the shared duties of persons in a workplace. As these persons begin work in your organisation you could ask yourself “Have you done all that is reasonably practical in relation to ensuring the health and safety of these persons?”
Codes of Practice provide practical guidance on how to meet the standards set out in the WHS Act and the WHS Regulations. Codes of Practice are admissible in proceedings as evidence of whether or not a duty under the WHS laws has been met. They can also be referred to by an inspector when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.
It is recognised that equivalent or better ways of achieving the required work health and safety outcomes may be possible. For that reason compliance with Codes of Practice is not mandatory providing that any other method used provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety than suggested by the Code of Practice.
Incident notifications to the Regulator are required for a number of notifiable situations being the death of a person, a serious injury or illness of a person; or a dangerous incident. Dangerous incidents are prescribed events that expose a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person’s health or safety. No actual injury need occur. These near miss situations must be reported.
Under the new Work Health and Safety Act, it is no longer necessary for a person to be killed to receive exposure to the maximum penalty available. A Category 1 offence (criminal offence with the maximum penalties) occurs when a duty holder, without reasonable excuse, engages in conduct that recklessly exposes a person to a risk of death or serious injury or illness. Hence, no injury has to have occurred!!
Persons who are to complete a number of activities that relate to high risk construction work, must develop a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS). Refer WHS Regs s291
The SWMS must state:
- the hazards relating to the high risk construction work and risks to health and safety associated with those hazards; and
- describe the measures to be implemented to control the risks; and
- describe how the control measures are to be implemented, monitored and reviewed.
The document must be prepared taking into account all relevant matters including:
- circumstances at the workplace that may affect the way in which the high risk construction work is carried out; and
- if the high risk construction work is carried out in connection with a construction project—the WHS management plan that has been prepared for the workplace; and
- be set out and expressed in a way that is readily accessible and understandable to persons who use it.
Australia is progressing to a new classification system developed by the United Nations. This system is presently in place across a number of countries and is planned for implementation in Australia by January 2017. Manufacturers and importers should be commencing the implementation process of this change to ensure that their safety data sheets and other labelling will be consistent before this date.