OHS regulations

A quick overview of health and safety penalty notices…

So, an Inspector might have recently paid a visit to your workplace and left you with some kind of ‘report’. Now, it’s likely that this report will be an Entry Report, Improvement Notice or a Prohibition Notice. But many businesses are often unsure about what these actually mean and what they need to do next. So, here’s some brief advice to start you off.

 

First of all, the Entry Report simply is a record of the visit. It advises that an inspector has been onsite, and advises the purpose of their visit.

 

Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices are different. These notices are issued when an Inspector identifies that there’s been a level of non-compliance with the health and safety laws. Note that these notices are not issued on a whim, or because the inspector simply thinks that your workplace could improve in some areas. They are serious. And, as such, they should be taken seriously because it is an offence not to comply with these.

 

Though the notices may vary slightly state to state, here’s a run down of these two types of notices and what they mean;

 

Improvement notices

These notices are issued when an Inspector believes that there is a safety issue that needs to be fixed within your workplace. These notices usually don’t prevent you from continuing business, as the issue is generally required to be resolved within a prescribed timeframe provided by the inspector. The inspector will generally revisit your site to ensure the required improvements have been made.

 

Prohibition notices

These ones are very serious. An Inspector will issue these if they believe there is a risk to your workers from‘an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard’ within the workplace. When these notices are issued you will need to stop all activity related to that hazard immediately until it is correctly managed. In some instances you may need to change the way you work moving forward as part of that management.

 

If you do receive one of these notices, do make sure that you fully understand what the notice has been issued for. If not, seek to clarify this with the Inspector, with legal counsel or with your regulator. If you don’t believe there is a breach, there is often an opportunity to place the notice under an internal review. However, be aware, there are often timeframes for such lodgment – so act fast. Once you understand the notice, make sure you plan to ensure that you have enough time to sufficiently correct the matter.

 

 

Now it goes without saying that there are always ways you can improve health and safety management in your workplace. So, if you are looking for solutions so that you can avoid receiving notices like the ones mentioned above again, check out how Safety Champion software can make things that much easier!

There’s no excuse to not know about safety

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat.

 

What on earth does that mean, you ask? Well, this is the legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because they were unaware of its content.

 

So, this is the interesting thing about occupational health and safety. From a legal perspective, business owners and senior managers really do need to know about safety and that there’s really no excuse not to know.

 

What we know from experience working with countless businesses is that if safety is not your area of expertise, the whole concept often seems an incredible hassle. It’s so hard to figure out what to do about health and safety – especially for many small and medium sized businesses where you don’t have the luxury of hiring a specific person to fulfill this role.

 

But the fact remains that if you are a senior manager within any business, you really do need to know what your role is – in other words you must make sure that the people in your workplace are safe and healthy, and that the operations of your workplace do not impact the health and safety of people.

 

 

One case that is well known amongst safety professionals is one involving Owens Group. The CEO – who was based in New Zealand – oversaw 30 companies including Owens Container Services. Following an incident in Australia, the CEO was prosecuted for not appropriately managing workplace hazards that resulted in a fatality. His claim that he was working remotely, and that he had a team to manage safety meaning that he was not able to ‘influence the conduct of the business’ was simply not suitable. The CEO was found guilty. Read more about the case here.

 

From this example, it can clearly be seen that simply because a senior manager doesn’t have a hands-on role in operations does not mean they are absolved of the health and safety obligations. Senior management have the authority to seek the implementation of health and safety policies, and therefore should do so.

 

So, if anything unfortunate was to go wrong in your workplace, in the eyes of the law, you must be found to have taken all reasonable steps to best manage and mitigate the health and safety risks on behalf of your workers. The legislation has been in place for years, and supporting information every business owner needs to know is readily available. So, this means that the excuse of “I didn’t realise” doesn’t quite cut it. You’ll discover quite quickly that you ought to have known.

 

To help you out, here are three easy ways to learn more about your health and safety responsibilities, right now:

 

  1. Visit the Safe Work Australia website – it has a simple layout, search fields to help you find what you are looking for, and all the information you could possibly need is available there.
  2. Contact your state regulator. If you are not sure who this is follow this link. Visit their websites or call to find out more. Some of them even have industry-specific advice to give straight off the bat.
  3. Engage a consulting firm. Sometimes there can be a lot of jargon and complexity around what you need to do. So, cut straight to it and bring some professionals on board to guide you.

 

And like we always say – it’s not all doom and gloom! Safety doesn’t have to be hard to manage! Read up on our 3 C’s of effective health and safety management or our 5 easy things every workplace can do to manage foreseeable safety hazards blogs to make some quick and easy changes right now! Most importantly, try to ‘stack’ safety habits into already existing practices. For tips on how to do this, read our blog Try ‘stacking’ your habits… to prevent safety from falling over.

 

 

Otherwise, contact us to learn more about how Safety Champion can help. Safety Champion isn’t just software to manage an already established safety plan (like all of the others). Safety Champion gives you all the tools, manuals and professional health and safety advice you need, to suit the specific needs of your business.

 

What is the difference between all those health and safety acronyms anyway?

A lot of our new clients come to us and say a similar thing. “I just got confused with all those health and safety acronyms! OHS, OSH, WHS or even WOSH… they all look the same, but are they?”

 

Commonly, businesses just don’t know why there are so many letters in different combinations, and what they actually mean for their business.

 

“I just got confused with all those health and safety acronyms! OHS, OSH, WHS or even WOSH… they all look the same, but are they?”

 

The fact is that the reason they seem the same, is because… you guessed it, they are. The variation in terminology is generally a result from how the health and safety legislation is titled in each Australian state, or the body that regulates the implementation of that legislation.

 

 

The common safety acronyms explained

Here’s a few of the common ones you see around explained:

 

  • WHS: In all Australian stated (other than VIC and WA), you will see people referring to WHS – Workplace Health and Safety due to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or Work Health and Safety Act 2012
  • OHS: In Victoria you will see people referring to OHS – Occupational Health and Safety due to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • OSH: In WA you will see people referring to OSH – Occupational Safety and Health due to the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984
  • HSW: In Great Britain and New Zealand you will see people referring to HSW [Health and Safety] due to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and 2015 respectively.
  • HSE: In Great Britain, you may also see people referring to safety as HSE – this is in reference to their regulator Health and Safety Executive.
  • OSHA: This referencing of the regulator also holds true in the USA. People referring to safety as OSHA aligning with the regulator: Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • EHS: This time, adding the E in there means “Environment”. This adds a layer of environmental considerations to workplace health and safety.

 

Free safety promotion poster set for your workplace. Download now.

 

Put simply, these safety acronyms mean exactly the same thing. They guide businesses to make a commitment to establish a workplace where a worker will leave work with the same physical and mental health that they presented to work with.

 

 

Onwards and upwards – getting safety moving

So if you use the terminology interchangeably, this really isn’t an issue. If you do get corrected by some smarty pants, point out that maybe they should be more concerned with the goal of keeping workers safe and healthy in the workplace, and less concerned about technicality and semantics.

 

 

These acronyms often just serve to make workplace health and safety seem even more complex that it already seems to people. So, we say, put the acronym aside for the moment, and just focus on what’s important.

 

And it’s this. All of this, all these acronyms, are simply about one thing: How can we make workplaces safer so that no one is hurt at work!

 

Sign up to our free safety management software today.

 


Alright that’s it from us – be sure to check out our other blogs for more useful information about safety. Try these ones next:

Health and safety legislation – the basic explanation

Why you should pay attention to prosecutions data

Four ways to provide better support to your First Aid Officers

Many businesses these days have got some great OHS/WHS practices going on, realising the huge importance of keeping their employees healthy and safe.

 

It’s more and more common to see health and safety related posters up in workplace tearooms, clearly marked and fully stocked first aid kits, and appointed fire wardens and first aid officers.

 

Free safety promotion poster set for your work. Download now.

 

At Safety Champion, we think this is an awesome step forward!

 

We’re even starting to see businesses of only a few staff undertaking health and safety activities throughout the year, especially those taking advantage of useful safety management software like Safety Champion!

 

But of the more common activities we see, it’s having a First Aid Officer in place that businesses are pretty good at.

 

 

 

What to know about the First Aid Officer

 

It’s important to remember that businesses should not only appoint a First Aid Officer but also ensure they are trained and regularly skilled up in case one of those unfortunate incidents does occur.

 

Typically, First Aid Officers rarely use their ‘skills’. However, if something nasty happens in the workplace, it is important that they are confident and ready to respond.

 

 

Typically, First Aid Officers rarely use their ‘skills’. However if something nasty occurs in the workplace, it is important that they are confident and ready to respond.

 

 

Tips and ideas for supporting First Aiders

 

So, here are some easy, low-investment ideas that you can easily adopt to support the people who put up their hand to be the workplace First Aid Officer;

 

  1. Hold a quarterly or 6-monthly meeting with your first aid officers to review the incident reporting register and discuss how to manage any foreseeable scenarios. Consider having individual First Aid Officers review these scenarios – let’s say 2 or 3 scenarios each time you meet.
  2. Email some useful ‘how-to’ blogs and other related OHS/WHS articles to First Aid Officers to remind them of their training and to help them maintain confidence in their first aid skills. Like ours, for example!
  3. Print and display first aid safety posters. This will assist non-First Aid Officers build their interest and understanding of your first aid program. Our friends at Alsco have over 40 freely downloadable and print-ready posters for you to choose from; such as first aid signsfirst aid visual guide posters; and first aid posters.
  4. Provide your First Aid Officers with access to the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for all hazardous chemicals that are available for use in your workplace. Consider collating the first aid information – and ensure that all first aid requirements are available. Again, you may look to review 2 or 3 chemicals each time you meet.

 

 

Get it on the agenda!

 

Only have one First Aid Officer? No problem! Add ‘first aid’ as an agenda item to your existing operational or ‘business as usual’ meetings – this can been routinely, it does not have to be at every one of these meetings.

 

The key is to make sure your First Aid Officer(s) remain trained with current practices. Oh and don’t forget to keep that first aid kit stocked and ready.

 

We know that managing health and safety in the workplace can seem hard and complicated. Watch this video to see how Safety Champion Software can help simplify the whole thing for you.

 

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For more detail about first aid take a look at the Code of Practices for Victoria and all other states. And here are some more docs about managing the working environment: 

 

 

Do you have young, first-time workers on board?

Last year, WorkSafe Victoria ran a brilliant public campaign to build awareness about the vulnerability of young people to workplace injury – especially those working in the retail, construction, hospitality and manufacturing industries. Why are they especially vulnerable? Well, it’s simply because they lack the experience, foresight and maturity to know when they may be putting themselves or others at risk.

 

So, what do you need to do to manage your duty regarding OHS for the first-time workers that you have on board in your workplace? Well, think about it from the perspective of sales and customer service. When new employees first start you give them training and guidance about things like the products you have available, how to help customers find what they need, and how to use the cash register, right? Well, it’s the same for health and safety… they need training and guidance.

 

Since, they’ve never been in a workplace before, they probably don’t know the first thing about the concept of health and safety. Maybe they’ve seen the acronyms OHS, WHS, OSH or WOHS, but don’t know what it means to them. So, start at the beginning. Ensure that health and safety has a prominent position in your induction and initial training sessions. Ensure your new workers know the health and safety procedures, how to use your equipment, what the right safety gear is to use, and importantly make it explicitly clear that they know who to talk to if they have a question about health and safety.

 

Nominating a supervisor or a buddy who can provide day-to-day advice and closely monitor young workers is important. And so is encouraging young people to ask for advice from that person and speak up if they feel something is dangerous, or are unsure. Sure, they may not be experts in hazard identification and risk management, but most of us, even your young workers have that special sense that alters us if something looks dodgy or dangerous to staff or customers. So, reassure them that they can question procedures and tasks if they think there is a risk to their safety and health. They simply need to feel comfortable to raise the issue with their supervisor so that you can together determine next steps.

 

What we love about the WorkSafe Victoria campaign is that it encourages young people to be aware of their role in health and safety in the workplace. After all, a healthy and safe workplace is one that actively involves everyone from senior management all the way through to your newest and youngest staff members.

 

So, why not try using these videos to open up communication with your young workers about health and safety in your workplace today.

Some things you hadn’t thought about when you last hired a contractor…

Just in case you were wondering… yes, your business has the same duty of care towards contractors as it does for its employees. The contractors you engage must be provided with a working environment that is without risk to health and safety, just like everyone else.

 

You get that but actually you are pretty confident that your workplace is safe. You are totally on top of managing OHS policy and procedure. But let’s spin this on its head for a second. Have you thought about whether the contractor themselves might introduce risks you haven’t already planned for?

 

Here’s some things to think about managing the time you have at work:

 

  • Ensure of competence. If the contractor is not competent to complete the work that you have agreed on they may be putting your other workers at risk. So, before you take them on, gather supporting information like certificates and licences, and verify competency through references.
  • Conduct an induction. If they don’t know the rules and procedure, again they may be putting others, and themselves, at risk. Hold an induction covering workplace rules, emergency procedures, hazard and incident reporting processes before they commence work. And regardless of whether they are at the workplace for an hour or a year.
  • Define responsibilities. Identify which workers in your workplace will be responsible for managing or supervising contractors. This will help ensure that if anything goes amiss, someone with workplace experience can catch it early.
  • Monitor work. Once the contractor has commenced work, your responsibility does not stop. Keep across what they are doing and check in with them. They may have health and safety questions and concerns that come up as they go.

 

And finally, manage your risk and ensure that the contractor is insured. Request that the contractor provide you with their most current public liability, professional indemnity, and WorkCover insurances, as appropriate.

 

By the way, we’re not just talking about contractors in the construction industry. This is any person, or an organisation for that matter, that provides a service for a fee but is not a direct employee. Think consultants, freelancers, external accountants who work in your office… they are all contractors and, as such, the above still applies.

This is an office. That OHS stuff doesn’t really apply here…

Right? Well, not quite. Actually, health and safety legislation in Australia doesn’t distinguish between industries or workplaces at all. Your duty to provide a ‘working environment that is safe and without risks to health and safety’ still applies even if you think it’s just those guys hanging off the side of your building cleaning the windows who have something to worry about. The health and safety of office workers is just as important.

 

So, what do you need to need to be aware of exactly? Well, OHS legislation is really all about mitigating risks to the health and safety of your workers. The legislation actually outlines a few duties that you, as a business owner or manager, can use to help you frame how to respond to it. Here are just a few of the things that relate to office workplaces to give you an idea of what we are talking about:

 

Emergency Management – What’s the plan if there’s a fire, serious injury, or aggressive customer?

Worker Training – Is OHS in your induction for new employees? Do your workers know the basics?

Consulting your Workers – When was the last time you spoke to your workers about OHS?

Incident Reporting – Did you know you need to keep a record of many injuries?

Managing Hazards – How do you manage:

  • Electricity – How is damaged equipment removed?
  • Housekeeping – Are there broken chairs lying around that someone might sit on?
  • Heavy Lifting – Do your staff sometimes carry heavy items around? Should they?
  • Stress – Are workloads increasing right now? Are you going through a big change in procedure or structure? Read more about stress management here.
  • Workstation ergonomics – What equipment have you provided? Is it suitable?

 

You are probably already starting to think about some things in your workplace that you really should look into further, right? But don’t worry. It’s not as hard as you think to put some solid control measures in place to prevent unnecessary injuries and illnesses.

 

To get started or to refresh some of the procedures you used to have in place, try reading a few of the resources below for more information, setting up a meeting with your workers (if you have OHS representatives great!) to review your procedures and policies, engaging an OHS consulting specialist company to help guide you, or even trying a software system like Safety Champion which comes with all of the checks and measures you need, tailored perfectly to your business needs. The good news is that if “stuff” is happening, your procedures don’t need to be documented – you just need to be able to demonstrate that you are doing something. If you look to document them, which can improve consistency and support knowledge transfer, try to avoid long and lengthy – could a flowchart or playbook better suit your business?

 

Sounds like a hassle, but the good news is that doing this right is good for business too. Ultimately, well implemented health and safety practices in your business will likely result in improved productivity and a healthier and safer office culture.

 

 

After more detailed information about this?

Here are some detailed docs about First Aid: First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code (VIC) and Code of Practice First Aid in the Workplace (Other States). In addition, our friends at Alsco have 40+: (i) first aid signs, (ii) first aid visual guide posters; and (iii) first aid posters, that are all freely downloadable and print ready. And here are some more docs about managing the working environment: Workplace Amenities and Work Environment (VIC) and Managing the Work Environment and Facilities (Other States)

 

 

How to actually achieve your OHS targets in 2017

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Ok, this is something that we harp on about a bit at Safety Champion – but it’s just so true. Wishes are good when blowing out birthday candles, but when it comes to the health and safety of your workers, just hoping that it’ll all be all ok is not fair on anyone! So, here’s a few planning pointers to help you reach your OHS targets in 2017.

 

At the end of the day, the point of safety objectives and targets is to make your workplace safer, right? So, start by identifying potential areas for improvement. Maybe these are things that you didn’t quite get around to doing last year or stuff your staff have been complaining about for a while. Let’s call these goals. Maybe it’s something like ‘Ensure all staff are trained and briefed about our Safety Management System’. A few obvious ones may come to mind, but consider consulting your workers to identify goals that are most relevant and will have impact.

 

Once these have been identified be sure to prioritise the goals. We can’t achieve everything at once, especially when time and resources are limited – so select the goals that will have the greatest impact. Prioritisation will help keep everyone focused on what is most important.

 

Now, establish some specific targets to achieve within each of the broader goals. This is where it gets a little more specific. So, for our example above, a target could be ‘Ensure we meet at least 80% attendance for quarterly OHS training in our workplace for the year 2017.’

 

The most important part of this exercise it to ensure that the targets you set are clear and measurable. While it is good to be ambitious at times, there’s no point setting targets that you cannot possibly achieve. So yes, make them challenging, but also make them achievable.

 

Now, it’s time to identify the activities that you will undertake in order to achieve these targets, and assign those activities to your workers. Again, taking our example, an activity could be ‘Design and facilitate quarterly OHS training sessions for staff’ and this could be assigned to ‘Jenny.’

 

Often clients tell us that they have targets and have identified activities; however, they struggle to implement. This is very common – so don’t worry, you are not the only ones! Here are a few of the key reasons for this so you can watch out for them:

  • OHS activities are not clearly assigned to workers.
  • Workers are not given adequate resources, information or timeframes to complete their assigned activities.
  • Workers are expected to complete safety activities in addition to their regular job. TIP; make safety activities part of a position description and NOT an addition.
  • Workplaces fail to monitor the progress of each activity on a regular basis.

 

So, make sure you set up regular progress reviews throughout the year to ensure you are on track to meet your targets. These reviews can also be used to re-align your targets to ensure that remain relevant! Meet with your workers to ensure they have everything that they need to complete the activity on time. If they don’t, get it for them! And don’t forget to assess the performance of each activity against the boarder goals and targets set. Make sure your health and safety efforts continue to align with what you determined was most important ing the beginning.

 

Right, that’s it in a nutshell. And while all of this can all be easily managed in our Safety Champion OHS Software, it is certainly possible to follow these pointers and track it all manually too. If you are doing it this way, why not use some of our OHS Tool Box Talks to start conversations with your workers around what the most important areas for improvement in your OHS Safety Management System are. Good luck!

Planning this year’s Christmas Party? Know your health and safety role

Yes, Christmas is a great time to celebrate the year’s achievements and let loose with your colleagues and workers. It’s a fun event and one we certainly look forward to each year. However, many employers are surprised to hear of their responsibilities in terms of ensuring their workers are safe and healthy at these events. Because, actually, a workplace-endorsed event like a Christmas party means many occupational health and safety rules and regulations still apply. So, let us give you a run down.

 

In most legal contexts, the work Christmas party is considered part of the work environment – even if the party is held after hours or offsite. So, this means that your responsibility to provide a safe environment for your employees still applies. As such, your workplace risk management practices with respect to health and safety need careful consideration for these kinds of events. And they become a little trickier when alcohol is added – the risk is obviously heightened.

 

It is important for businesses to understand that they may be liable for any employee injuries that occur before, during or after a workplace function, regardless of whether the injury happened as a result of the employee being intoxicated.

 

A ruling by the NSW Workers’ Compensation Commission accepted a claim lodged by an employee who was injured following business drinks with a client. Even though the employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury, the NSW Workers Compensation Commission found that socialising with the client was in the course of employment.

 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Like all other hazards in the workplace, you just need to take the steps to understand and mitigate the risks for your upcoming Christmas party! Here are some suggestions from us:

 

Risk Assess. Document a risk assessment that identifies all foreseeable hazards and their defined controls, and incorporate this as part of your event planning. For example:

  • Do you have a plan in place for managing intoxicated guests?
  • Do you have a plan in place for managing uninvited guests?
  • Have you considered security options? Does the venue provide security, or should you hire your own?
  • And don’t forget to consider a site inspection prior to the event.

 

Revisit and Remind Your Employees of Your Expectations. In the days prior to the Christmas event, remind staff by email or memo about the expected standards of behaviour, and the disciplinary consequences that may take place. This should see you reinforce your workplace’s OHS, EEO and Code of Conduct Policies to all attendees.

 

Be clear. Explain to guests when the event will finish. Clearly set out defined start and finish times for the event and ensure that these are stated on the invitation. Realise that arranging or paying for drinks at an ‘after party’ will most likely extend your liability.

 

Travel. How will workers travel to and from the function? In some states, remember that your workers compensation obligations do not just cover the employee’s time at work, but also extends to the journey to and from work – in this case the Christmas party.

 

Manage alcohol. Consumption of alcohol is likely to be a key risk. Consider restricting the amount of drinks or the strength of drinks that are available. If possible, avoid table service and ‘top-ups’ as it makes it harder for employees to break between drink or keep track of how many drinks they’ve had. Always have non-alcoholic alternatives available.

 

Provide food. A meal or finger food has been shown to slow down alcohol consumption. Also, Provide substantial and diverse food options making sure dietary requirements are catered for.

 

Supervise! Appoint someone to be responsible for overseeing that the festivities run smoothly. This person should monitor safety hazards such as wet floors, loose cables and manage incidents that may occur during the event. What are your internal first aid procedures? Supervision should include monitoring the controls identified within your pre-event risk assessment.

 

Debrief. In the days following the event, review the pre-event risk assessment and evaluate the effectiveness of the identified controls. Good documentation at this end will support your planning for next year.

 

And finally, while health and safety is important, it should not be a blocker for a great time! Some careful thought and planning before your Christmas party will ensure that it is enjoyable, safe and fun for everyone involved!

 

Merry Christmas from everyone at Safety Champion!

Everything you need to know about Personal Protective Equipment

As an employer you are responsible for establishing control measures to best ensure your workers are not injured when at work. One method commonly used to manage your workers exposure to hazards in the workplace is by providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Whilst it’s common for businesses to provide PPE to workers and contractors, many are not exactly sure of the circumstances or rules that surround this. So, let us give you a quick overview.

 

What is PPE?
PPE is anything used or worn by a person to minimise risks to that person’s health or safety. It includes a wide range of clothing and safety equipment such as boots, facemasks, hard hats, earplugs, respirators, gloves, safety harnesses, high visibility clothing and more.

 

When should PPE be used?
PPE should be used when an uncontrolled hazard has been identified in the workplace. Some common hazards that PPE is often used to help manage include:
Noise = earplugs or earmuffs
Dust = respirators
Contact with skin and/or body = gloves, clothes, apron, glasses, safety boots
UV Radiation = clothes, hat, glasses, sunscreen. Read more about this here.

 

How does PPE work?
PPE creates a barrier between the worker and that hazard. However you should remember that on most occasions PPE will not stop full exposure to the hazard. It will only reduce the workers exposure to that hazard.

For this reason it’s important to note that PPE should not be used as the only measure you use to manage hazards. Generally PPE should be used to supplement higher level control measures – think of it as a back-up, or, as an interim measure until a more effective way of controlling the hazard can be used.

 

Do I have to provide it?
In short, if workers are required to wear PPE to undertake their job, the employer must provide PPE to workers.

 

So, how do you know if PPE is required?
Generally, PPE is either standard across your industry (for example wearing high visibility clothing when working around traffic), or, has been identified as the outcome from a risk assessment that your workplace has completed.

 

Can I charge my employees for it?
If PPE has been identified as a requirement by the workplace, it’s actually an offence for an employer to charge or levy a worker for it. This includes footwear if it has been identified as a requirement of the role. Workplace relations’ laws also prohibit deductions from employee’s wages for PPE. With respect to some PPE and footwear, often some workplaces will have a ‘standard’ PPE offering. Workers may seek reimbursement outside of this offering, if they choose, so long as their PPE meets the required standard.

 

How do I choose the correct PPE?
When choosing PPE, you should consult with the users of the PPE – your workers – to ensure that the it does not create additional hazards, and to ensure that it will not impede the worker to undertake their job. Something that is often forgotten is considering how the PPE will be used in practice – simple, yet often missed! Once the PPE has been identified at your workplace, your next step should be to ensure that it meets the appropriate Australian Standards.

 

Is there anything else I should be aware of?
There are a couple of key things:

  • Firstly, if you provide PPE in your workplace, there is an expectation within the legislation that you will train your workers on the correct use, fit and maintenance of the PPE. Whilst there is a legislative requirement to do this, there is no legislative requirement to document this. However, should there be an injury in the future – consider whom the investigator will believe? The worker who advises that they have not been trained – whether this is true or not. Or the workplace that advises that the worker has been trained but has no documented records to prove it.
  • Secondly, the PPE you chose may have an expiry date – for example hardhats. This means that you will need to identify a process to monitor and manage this.
  • Finally, issuing PPE may mean that your workplace has additional legislated duties, such as completing audiometric (in other words hearing-related) tests. These tests, as an example, must be typically completed within specific timeframes. So bear this in mind.

 

 

We know that even something as simple as using the right equipment and gear in the workplace can add to your ‘to do’ list and escalate into a small headache. But with our Safety Champion Software, features like automatic reminders about PPE replacement deadlines, or quick PPE overview Toolbox Talks all come as part of the package. So, to make things a little easier on yourself, why not take a product tour today?

Which SPF rating sunscreen should my workers be using?

These days, it seems like there are so many different SPF ratings of sunscreen on the market it’s hard to be sure of what it all means. SPF is actually a measure of sunscreens ability to prevent Ultra Violet B (UVB) from penetrating into and damaging the skin. It’s safe to say that the higher the number, the better job the sunscreen will do of this. In case you were hoping that the health and safety legislation would specify which SPF rating you should be using, well, we’re sad to inform it doesn’t.

 

But what the health and safety legislation does specify is that you must identify your workplace hazards, so these can be controlled, to allow you to provide a workplace that is safe for your workers. This means, if you have workers out in the sun, you need to protect them against UV rays so they don’t get sunburn – and melanoma down the track. So, if you do have workers working outdoors, how can this be controlled and what SPF should be being used? Let us give you the low down.

 

Actually, most sunscreens with an SPF rating of 15 or higher do an excellent job of shielding the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. When used properly, SPF15 protects the skin from 93% of UVB radiation. SPF30 is obviously going to be better and provides 97%. So, yep, you guessed it – the higher the better! And certainly either is better than nothing.

 

But it’s important to know that there is no single sunscreen will provide 100% coverage. So, along with the highest SPF rating sunscreen you can get your hands on, you should consider other methods to manage your workers time in the sun, like:

  • Providing UV protective, long-sleeved collared shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Rescheduling tasks to ensure outdoor work is performed at the start of end of the day.
  • Providing access to shelter or shade.

 

And as a general rule of thumb, sunscreen won’t stay effective for longer than two hours without reapplication, regardless of the SPF rating. So, don’t forget to remind your workers of this, despite what the bottle might say!

 

Want to learn about mitigating other risks related to your staff working in the sun? Read our blog about ways to avoid heat stress. And if your business does need to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like sunscreen, to manage sun related hazards, you might find our blog about Everything you need to know about Personal Protective Equipment a useful read.

 

Some pointers for those without formally documented OHS Procedures

For many small businesses, especially those with regular and ongoing communication across all levels of the business, undocumented Health and Safety Procedures may be sufficient to fulfil the legislative duty. Read more about this here. But to ensure that you are managing your health and safety legislative duty, here are some basic ‘no brainer’ procedures that you should consider establishing as a minimum:

  • Hazard and Risk Management. You workplace has a duty to provide a safe work environment. What steps have you undertaken to identify, control and review health and safety risks in your workplace?
  • Training and Competency. Your workplace has the duty to provide information to workers; in addition, there are some statutory obligations regarding training. How does your workplace manage this?
  • Consultation and Communication. The health and safety legislation is not prescriptive – its basis is the risk management approach. How do you know what all of the health and safety issues are without asking your entire workforce? What steps has your workplace established to ensure information is shared across the business?
  • Incident Management. Your workplace has statutory obligations to manage workplace injuries and, under certain circumstances, report incidents to the regulator. What workflows have you established?

If you are reading this and thinking it is still a little too hard, please contact us. We have functional, legislation-compliant solutions that can work for your business, whether it’s small or large.

Advantages to having documented Health and Safety Procedures in place

For many businesses documenting your Health and Safety Procedures is not vital to be in compliance with the legislation. Read more about this here. However, depending on the work that you do, there may be times that the legislation will require you to have your health and safety ‘ways of working’ documented.

For example, in Australia, there is a requirement across all jurisdictions to document the steps that your workers have establish to manage the risks associated with high risk construction work. The requirements of these documents, whether they are documented on paper or glass, are outlined within the health and safety regulations.

But there are also other reasons why your business should consider documenting your health and safety procedures. For example, if you run a company that is contracted by other organisations to undertake work on their behalf, it’s likely that you will one day be asked for a copy of your Health and Safety Procedures. Many businesses aim to manage the risks associated with the engagement of contractors, by only awarding contracts and/or tenders to contractors that have a documented Safety Management System. This ‘direction’ is designed to provide the business with assurances and greater confidence that the contractor they are engaging has considered their health and safety impacts.

For businesses that have not implemented a ‘documented’ Safety Management System this can often be a block on expanding their business. The requirements placed on contractors are here to stay and if anything, are likely to become more stringent. Why – because it makes things safer? No, not necessarily. It is more likely to be associated with us working in a litigious society, where there is a requirement for risk management needs to be explicit and demonstrable.What are Health and Safety Procedures

A final reason why documenting these procedures will be necessary is certification. And this is a different beast altogether. Should you proceed down this path, you should know that certification requires simple methods for the auditors to understand your established or official way of doing something.

There are advantages of certification, one key benefit is the ability to communicate to workers and customers that your Safety Management System is at a defined standard. It doesn’t mean your business is safer, it means that your business’ Safety Management System has achieved a defined standard.

 

An overview of the minimum Health and Safety Procedures required for certification against the Australian/New Zealand Standard and the National Audit Tool Version 3 (NAT3) are outlined in the table below.

 

StandardDocumented Procedures Required
AS/NZS 4801:2001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, Guidance for Use.The following procedures are to be documented:

  • Hazard Identification, Hazard/Risk Assessment and Control of Hazards/Risks (of activities, products and services that the organisation has control over) (Criterion 4.4.3.1 / 4.4.6)
  • Health and Safety Consultation (Criterion 4.4.3)
  • Emergency Procedures (Criterion 4.4.7)
  • Monitoring and Measurement of Activities that may cause illness and injury (Criterion 4.5.1)

In addition to documented procedures, the standard requires documented evidence of the following:

  • Health and Safety Policy (Criterion 4.2)
  • Health and Safety Objectives and Targets (Criterion 4.3.3)
  • Health and Safety Accountability and Responsibilities (Criterion 4.4.1)
  • Management Health and Safety Review (Criterion 4.6)
National Audit Tool (Version 3)The NAT3 defined a procedure as a document in text or graphic format that describes the reason, scope, steps to be followed and responsibilities for a component of the Health and Safety Management System. It may also include definitions and references to other documents. It must be implemented effectively.

This means that procedures are required for:

  • Consultation (Criterion 3.4.1)
  • Identification of hazards and the assessment and control of risks (Criterion 3.4.4)
  • The exchange of relevant health and safety information with external parties (Criterion 3.5.3)
  • Dealing with formal and informal health and safety complaints received from external parties (Criterion 3.5.4)
  • Reporting and recording workplace injuries and illnesses, incidents and health and safety hazards, dangerous occurrences and system failures (Criterion 3.6.1)
  • Risk management (Criterion 3.9.7)
  • Verifying that purchased goods meet health and safety requirements (Criterion 3.10.6)
  • Materials and substances are disposed of safely (Criterion 3.10.9)
  • Permit to work – as required (Criterion 3.10.14)
  • Quarantine, or withdrawal from service, of unsafe plant or equipment (Criterion 3.10.17)
  • Material transport, handling and storage (Criterion 3.10.21)
  • Critical incidents (Criterion 3.11.8)
  • Health Surveillance – Identification and Management (Criterion 4.2.1)
  • Corrective Actions (Criterion 4.3.1)
  • Incident investigation Procedure (Criterion 4.3.2)

What are your responsibilities for your pregnant workers?

A lot of employers get confused about exactly what their responsibilities are with their pregnant workers. How close to the birth do they go on maternity leave? Are they entitled to more leave for attending doctor’s appointments? Can their existing role be too dangerous for them now that they are pregnant? We’ll try to clear the air a little…

 

Employers must provide and maintain a working environment for their employees that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably possible. Of course, this also applies to your employees who are pregnant. But what a lot of employers don’t realise is that their ‘change of condition’ can also mean in some cases that there must be changes in the conditions of their working environment.

 

Possible risks for pregnant workers in the workplace

Here’s an indication of some of the more common activities and conditions in a work environment that are potentially hazardous to pregnant women:

 

  • Excessive noise (above the noise exposure standard) – Whilst the mother can wear hearing protection, her unborn baby cannot. Excessive noise can damage the developing ears of a baby in utero.
  • Manual handling – Heavy lifting and awkward postures during pregnancy can result in physical complications (abdominal separation, torn muscles or ligaments) or increased risk of falls due to the change in centre of gravity and balance.
  • Standing for long periods – Risk of thrombosis (blood clotting) and varicose veins increases for pregnant women standing for long periods – along with risk of fainting, especially in a hot environment.
  • Working with screen-based computer equipment – Physical changes that occur during pregnancy will mean that adjustments to workstation setup may be required over the course of the pregnancy to reduce stress placed on the lower back.
  • Lead and lead compounds – Lead poisoning is caused by breathing or swallowing lead. Lead can pass from a mother to her unborn baby and increase the risk for miscarriage, cause the baby to be born too early or too small, or result in learning or behavioural problems for the child.
  • Chemicals – Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) will note details about each chemical and whether it is a health risk to pregnant workers.
  • Fumes (particularly chemical) – Fumes can make a pregnant woman feel ill, in addition to potentially affecting the development of her unborn child.
  • Shocks and vibration – Regular exposure to shocks, low frequency vibration or excessive movement may increase the risk of a miscarriage. Examples would be driving or riding in off-road vehicles or earth moving equipment.

Whilst some of these hazards won’t be a concern pre-pregnancy; pregnancy does change this. To manage the health and safety hazard exposures associated with pregnancy, the workplace should consult with the pregnant worker to ensure their pregnancy is effectively managed. To support the conversation, you may wish to invite comment from the workers doctor.

 

Working up until the date of birth

Pregnant workers may work right up until the expected date of birth of their child. However, under the National Employment Standards (NES), if a worker wishes to work in the last six weeks of their pregnancy they must provide you, their employer, with a medical certificate stating that they are fit to work, if asked. It is good to keep this in mind, in case you are concerned about their health and ability to perform their role in the last 6 weeks.

If the medical certificate is not provided within seven days, or if the certificate says that the employee is not fit for work, you may request your employee to take personal leave, such as sick leave, or start unpaid parental leave as soon as possible.

 

Additional time off for antenatal appointments

Employees are not entitled to additional time off work for pregnancy-related appointments by law. However, many workplaces remain quite flexible in this regard and allow their pregnant employees to make doctors appointments during the working day, as they need. It is just a matter of open discussion, ensuring that workloads remain well-managed and the pregnant employees health remains well-managed!

 

 

Implementing our OHS Software solution helps you to plan and manage necessary health and safety duties even when your employees go on leave… like maternity leave. Contact us to discuss how our software can help today.

More requests for ‘sit-stand’ workstations? Try something else…

Since the 60-Minutes story ‘Stand Up Australia – Is sitting down killing us?’ aired in September 2014 the following question has been on every manager’s mind “Do I now have to provide ‘sit-stand’ workstations to my workers?“.

 

To us, the sit-stand workstation phenomena is an example of safety and OHS being used irresponsibly. The misconception that managers must purchase sit-stand workstations to provide a safe working environment is simply NOT true. Yes, managers absolutely do have a duty to provide a safe workplace. But no, this does not mean they need to purchase a bunch of sit-stand workstations.

 

Think back ten years, can you recall the saddle seat? Do you recall fit-balls replacing office chairs? If you can’t, consider taking a look in your storeroom. You may find them in there. Perhaps the sit-stand desk will end up in there with them one day. Who knows?

 

We are not saying that there are not benefits to standing throughout the working day. We would be crazy to. The well-reported health hazards associated with prolonged sitting include (but, of course, are not limited to):

  • increased pressure on the spine,
  • increased strain on muscles and ligaments,
  • possible risks for some cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes,
  • decreased calorie-burning rate (to just 1 cal/min),
  • decreased enzymes that help break fat down (dropping by 90%).

 

A 38-hour working week means that work roughly contributes to 23% of a full week. If this is so, why has the focus only been on seated posture at work, not the other times we sit? Consider the amount we sit outside of work – in the car, on the bus, using the computer at home, watching TV, eating dinner, lunch, breakfast… the list could go on!

 

It is highly unlikely that a workplace would “force” their workers to stay seated all day. Why is this important? Because it means that sit-stand workstations are not your only reasonable method of control.

 

So, if sit-stand workstations have been under consideration in your workplace – try investigating some of the other methods that may be used to manage the hazard itself – static posture or prolonged sitting.

 

Many of the risks mentioned above can be minimised by simply moving out of a seated posture for two (2) minutes every hour. So, in consultation with your workers (including HSRs and Health and Safety Committee if they are in place), have a think about these ideas:

 

Standing meetings

  • Remove chairs from some meeting rooms
  • Provide benches at a raised height that workers can stand around

 

Walking meetings

  • Map out a 1.5 to 2 km circuit for a 30-minute meeting
  • Map out a 3 to 4 km circuit for a 60-minute meeting

 

Run an internal campaign to encourage a standing and moving culture. Fun ideas are:

  • Stand every time you answer a phone call
  • Stand every time you review or read documents
  • Stand when a colleague comes to your desk or office
  • Use to a kitchen, printer or amenity that is not the closest
  • Use telephones, speakers or calendars to set a ‘change’ posture reminder
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift

 

All of these options will support workers to move out of a static posture across the work day. They all support proactive management of the hazard, just like the sit-stand workstation. But what’s also great about these options are that they could all double as fantastic energising and team-building methods, ultimately leading to increased happiness and productivity in your workplace!

 

Why not give them a try?

 

Want to know more about what is actually involved for you to provide a safe workplace for your employees? Read our Safety Management Systems; A Comprehensive Overview post that covers the legislative requirements – you won’t see a sit-stand desk mentioned once.

Help your workers retain those vital skills

Training is an important component of your health and safety program. It ensures that your workers have the appropriate knowledge and skills to competently complete the requirements of their job safely. What training looks like will vary considerably from business to business. Like everything training can be hit and miss. Some training will be effective and engaging, while other training will send workers to sleep, leading to zero-impact and retention.

 

To ensure that you get to most out of your training, we have reviewed some training methods so your can align your programs to achieve the deliverable you are after. Here, we have taken a look at blocked versus random practice; which you’ve probably come across in a sporting context before. Here’s how they work when learning a new skill like hitting a ball;

 

  • Blocked practice: Learn the skill from several scenarios by acting out Scenario A 10 times, before moving onto Scenario B, and then onto Scenario C.
  • Random practice: Learn the skill from several scenarios by acting out Scenario A once, Scenario B once and Scenario C once and repeat this 10 times

 

Ok, so now which one do you think is more effective in helping the skill be retained? The answer is dependent on whether you were assessing the performance after the initial training, or the performance at a later date.

 

Blocked practice should produce better performance than random practice during the initial training. It is an effective way for the participant to ‘understand’ the components of the individual skill. However, once the initial components of the skill are understood, it is random practice that will improve the participant’s ability to retain the skill.

 

Why? Because during random practice, the participant is required to work through the whole skill (from start to finish), as they switch between the different scenarios; rather than making minor adjustments to the skill, using their knowledge from their past performance. In brief, this causes more brain stimulation and activity. More brain activity results in better long-term learning.

 

So, to help your workers really understand the skills to undertake their job safely, your health and safety training should consider shifting from blocked training scenarios to a more randomised approach if this reflects the work that they are undertaking. Whilst challenging for your workers initially – “mixing things up” will improve their skills, help them recall the “skill” in the future, ultimately lead to a safer workplace.

 

 

Our OHS Software solution helps you manage your worker’s training better. Contact us to find out how.

 

 

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