Workers also have duties under the WHSA

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.

Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination

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 [2016] 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?

Are your SOP’s still current?

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.

Contractors and their employees are now defined as workers and you may have responsibilities!

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?”

Do you know what a “Code of Practice” is?

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 Notification – a near miss carries the same weight as an injury!

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!!

Do you know when you must prepare a Safe Work Method Statement?

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.

If you manufacture or import chemicals, have you updated all your Safety Data Sheets to comply with the new classification system?

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.

Do you realise that if you pour a chemical into a container and then head off to lunch, you may have broken the law?

Decanted Hazardous Chemicals must be labelled unless the chemical is used immediately after it is put in the container. In addition, the container must be thoroughly cleaned immediately after the hazardous chemical is used, handled or stored so that the container is in the condition it would be in if it had never contained the hazardous chemical.

If you use methylated spirits to clean your copier, does this need to be included in your Hazardous Chemicals Register?

Chemicals which are generally for domestic use and considered safe in the home may present greater risks in the workplace depending on the manner and quantities in which they are used. This is particularly relevant, for example, where domestic cleaning chemicals are purchased from a supermarket and used in a workplace environment. You should always follow label directions. However, if you are using a domestic chemical in a manner different to normal household use, you should also obtain the SDS in order to determine the level of risks to workers and the appropriate controls. The SDS should contain more detailed information on hazards and risks, for example on incompatibilities with other chemicals and risks from use in enclosed areas.

Hence, if the chemical is a domestic chemical used for a domestic purpose i.e. dish washer chemical, then an SDS is not required and it does not need to be included in the register. For the methylated spirits however, it’s use is commercial and therefore an SDS would be required and it needs to be included in the Register. Refer WHS Regulations s344 (4).