Occupational Health and Safety. Your Responsibility!

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I know we’ve been over this before, but as it’s the start of a New Year.

Getting on top of all of these things should be a priority for all business owners and operators!

 

While this is a bit lengthy I strongly urge anyone who owns, operates or manages a business to read this newsletter to the end.

 

If you have your workplace safety management systems in place that’s great but…

are they up to date?

Have you completed your annual review or just hoping it’s all good?

 

Don’t have a safety management system in place then you’re at risk of some very heavy penalties if there’s an incident or accident in your workplace!

Here’s three reasons why an OHSMS must be in place in YOUR organisation:

 

  1. A Brisbane based company was fined $3 million for Industrial Manslaughter. A worker was killed in a forklift crush accident. The company did not have any safety systems or a traffic management plan. 
  2. Dreamworld was fined $3.6 million for 3 x category two offences. The Thunder River Rapids Ride accident killed four members of the public. They did have a safety management system in place but was not followed!
  3. A paper mill was fined $1.01 million for 2 x category two offences. Two workers died and a third was placed in mortal peril after being exposed to hydrogen sulphide in a tank.

The above fines do not include personal settlements, that of course, can be extremely costly!

Categories of offences

There are four categories of offences which I’ve outlined below. I’ve outlined these to demonstrate what penalties can be applied in Queensland. Other states and territories are similar!

Industrial Manslaughter

This is the highest penalty where a person or PCBU causes the death of a worker

Penalties:

Where a PCBU, or senior officer, commits industrial manslaughter, a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for an individual, or $10 million for a body corporate, applies.

Category 1

This is the next highest penalty

Penalties:

  • For a corporation: up to $3 million
  • Individual as a person conducting a PCBU: up to $600,000 / 5 years jail
  • Individual (worker) Up to $300,000 / 5 years jail

 

Category 2

Failure to comply with a health and safety duty or electrical safety duty that exposes a person to risk of death, serious injury or illness. Offences will be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court.

Penalties:

  • For a corporation: up to $1.5 million
  • Individual as a person conducting a PCBU: up to $300,000
  • Individual (worker) Up to $150,000

 

Category 3

Failure to comply with a health and safety duty or electrical safety duty. Offences will be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court.

Penalties:

  • For a corporation: up to $500,000
  • Individual as a person conducting a PCBU: up to $100,000
  • Individual (worker) Up to $50,000

 

The top five problems in safety management today!

  1. Safety culture: The over-riding focus on safety culture leads organisations to focus more on how much individual workers care about safety, rather than organisational resources on understanding and improving the conditions surrounding the work itself to manage tangible risks.

 

  1. Safety performance measures: An exclusive focus on measuring the workplace injuries that occur (which are often minor when compared with the serious risks workers face) pushes resources towards reacting to minor problems instead of proactively focusing on material risk reduction.

 

  1. Safety work: Investing in safety work activities, inspections, audits, investigations, training and risk assessments are often nothing more than a “tick and flick” exercise leading to a safety culture leading to safety clutter and disempowerment. At worst it creates the illusion of safety management that in turn makes organisations less safe.

 

  1. Safety communication: Top down broadcast style communication in organisations – including generic messages and platitudes – supress the flow of information from the front line people in the organisation with decision making authority. The people in the organisation with the knowledge on how to improve safety don’t have the power to do so and the people with the power don’t have the front line knowledge of what is best practice.

 

  1. Safety professionals: Safety managers and officers in organisations spend time on administrative tasks that make managers in the organisation feel safe without having any actual impact on how safe frontline workers are. Safety professionals are rarely involved in the strategic and operational decisions that have the most impact on creating the conditions for safety or reducing incidents within the organisation.

 

There is a clear pathway for your organisation to address these five problems with safety management today, and it will require a significant departure from current thinking about safety. Here’s a three point plan as a starting point to review your safety management approach.

 

  1. Focus on how work is done, not on the attitude of workers or safety processes;
  2. Understand the serious injury risks and build the psychological safety to communicate about their status openly and continually;
  3. Re-design the role safety professionals so they can proactively lead material risk reduction efforts.

 


Shorlink’s Recommendation

My main recommendation is to take into account the three point plan above and review your existing safety management system or if you don’t have one yet use those three points when developing yours.

Critical action is to do a complete review on your existing system to ensure it meets WHS legislation and has procedures that are developed based on “how the task is actually done” and up to date!

Secondly, if you don’t have a safety management system in place in your organisation it’s seriously time to get it underway…now! If in doubt go back and check the three reasons why to have an OHSMS in place.


Tip

There are a multitude of safety management companies and individuals out there trying to sell their wares and some are good while others not so good.

My number one tip is to do your homework before engaging anyone to do your safety management system and ensure they have hands on experience in your industry.

Engaging someone with a list of qualifications but NO industry experience has the potential to cause problems down the track and…it’s something I’ve witnessed a number of times before.