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Work Health and Safety Blog

There's so much happening in the world of health & safety. Changes in legislation and requirements, changes in best practice, changes in ... you name it. Here's my take on making it simple. Simply Genius WHS - stop guessing... manage with confidence.

Your best bet or business best practice to avoid WHS prosecution

Maralyn Kastel - Monday, August 05, 2013

The first step is to make sure you are aware of your duties and obligations under the WHS Act and the WHS Regulations.

If you are a PCBU, either as an individual, a partnership, a corporation or unincorporated associations, then the duties placed on the PCBU include:

  • eliminating the risks to health and safety to workers and others (includes volunteers, contractors etc), so far as is reasonably practicable and
  • if it is not possible to eliminate the risks, then putting in place risk controls to minimise those risks as far as is reasonable practicable.

This means doing everything that is reasonable practicable in all the following areas:

  1. Work environment: specifically job sites, work tasks, managing risks to health and safety, such as noise, falls, electrocution, bullying etc
  2. Plant and structures: making sure that plant used by workers is safe and that all structures and plant are without risks to the health and safety of persons who operate plant or access structures (eg scaffolds, water tanks etc)
  3. Safe systems of work: all-encompassing area covering all aspects of work and the work environment, such as safe work method statements, operating procedures, etc
  4. Use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances: the safety of workplace fixtures and fittings, plant and structures including design, manufacture, importing or supply of plant, structures or substances
  5. Information, training, instruction and supervision: providing WHS information about hazards and risks to workers; training and instruction of workers on how to do their jobs safely and providing appropriate and competent supervision of workers.

Quite simply to prove your compliance, you must be able to demonstrate compliance in the above areas.  This will mean doing everything in a practical manner and providing evidence of that practical compliance with supporting documentation.

This is how it works
If you are an officer of a PCBU you must take reasonable steps to demonstrate due diligence compliance and this means:

  1. Get information and keep your knowledge of work health and safety matters up to date – remember ignorance is no defence
  2. Know the nature of the business and understand the hazards and risks associated with the operations of the PCBU
  3. Make sure the PCBU provides appropriate resources (time, money, people) to eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of workers
  4. Have in place procedures and processes to receive information that identifies, manages and controls the hazards and risks and incidents. Keep records of actions taken as a result of information received.
  5. Make sure that the PCBU implements processes to comply with the Act
  6. Confirm and verify that the duties outlined are provided for by the PCBU.

The only way to do this
Confirmation and verification of compliance can really only be achieved through documenting the procedures and processes.  This means auditing your system.  It doesn’t have to be an audit conducted by an external body, but it does mean making sure that through your internal processes you have the necessary procedures and resources that are being used……. (no out of date OHS manuals sitting on a shelf!)

The dreaded paperwork
An officer and the PCBU need to be able to provide evidence (as a minimum):

  1. An up to date WHS management system (policy and procedures)
  2. Consultation procedures with worker involvement
  3. Documentation of consultation with workers (Toolbox talks, Minutes of Safety meetings)
  4. Worker training compliance including:
    • Health and safety induction processes (handbook, manual, training)
    • Records of qualifications and training (regular and refresher training)
    • Licences, permits and authorisations to perform the work
  5. Documented systems relating to the work to be conducted by the PCBU including:
    • Risk management processes on identifying hazards, assessing the risk and implementing risk controls; management of accidents, incidents and monitoring of health issues such as noise, etc
    • Safe work method statements and/or standard operating procedures

What this will do for you
If you have the above areas covered, then when an inspector calls either as a result of an accident or a random inspection, you’ll have the necessary evidence to be able to demonstrate that you have complied with your duties and obligations required in the legislation.

How do we know this?
In the last 6 months two of our clients have had serious accidents and the good news is that they were able to provide the WorkCover inspectors with substantive evidence that they were doing everything they could, as far as is responsibly practicable, to comply with the legislation.  In both cases, their evidence was accepted by WorkCover and neither client was subject to prosecution, nor were they issued with an improvement notice.

There were just “accidents”.

Now if you want that confidence to have all the right procedures and process in place and you’re not sure if you’re on the right track, call us and see how we can help.

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