Risk assessments are the fundamental building blocks of all modern safety systems. Workplace Health and Safety legislation in every State and Territory of Australia, along with Commonwealth safety legislation requires employers to follow:
- Hazard Identification
- Risk Assessment and;
- Risk Control
Detailed State & Territory Legislative Plant Safety Requirements
For details of State & Territory Legislation & Guidance information, please follow this link Workplace Health and Safety Legislation. This detailed information shows that there are specific plant safety requirements for each Australian jurisdiction. These specific requirements are automatically built into your Plant Assessor hazard assessment.
Major Incidents – Consequences
Amongst an employer’s worst nightmares is the idea of a fatality or significant catastrophic injury in their workplace. The personal grief suffered by workmates, friends and the family of an injured or deceased staff member is the most difficult aspect of any fatality or major injury. In addition to this grief, there is the possibility of an extended regulator investigation and prosecution. These lengthy and expensive proceedings are both gruelling and highly demanding on directors, management and staff.
Each of the Australian regulators, takes a different approach to a major incident investigation and prosecution. The aim of the incident investigation is to scientifically review the factors and circumstances that may have contributed to an incident and subsequent injury.
Generally speaking, an inspector will seek to identify the causes of an incident and identify whether these causes in some way represented a significant breach of an employer’s duties under the legislation. The details of specific legislative obligations are covered in the Plant Safety Obligations section of our website, however a number of themes run across the WH&S legislative structure in all Australian jurisdictions, these being:
- Employers (and others) have a Duty of Care to ensure the safety of employees and others
- Duty holders need to illustrate due diligence in exercising this duty of care
- Central to the exercise of this duty of care is the expectation to follow the process of hazard identification, risk assessment and control
- In most jurisdictions there are specific expectations that duty holders will identify, assess and control Plant & Equipment risks in accordance with the above process
All incidents, prosecutions, and most prosecutors are different, so it is difficult to predict a standard line of enquiry when it comes to determining whether a duty holder has been diligent.
Legislation and prosecution history in every jurisdiction in Australia clearly shows it is common for prosecutors to focus heavily upon the diligence or otherwise shown by a defendant, and this diligence is often best illustrated by evidence of proactive risk assessment and control.
OK, so it is diligent to have a regime of risk assessment and control, why should I start with plant & equipment?
Because Plant & Machinery is:
- Involved in a statistically high proportion of catastrophic incidents,
- Consequently subject to a high relative percentage of prosecutions
- Subject to specific obligations in relation to risk assessment and application of specific controls in all jurisdictions
- Relative to other hazard areas, more finite, structured and simple to manage.
Therefore, having a thorough and well documented system of plant & machinery risk assessment is a foundation stone in any proactive safety system, and hence an excellent way of not only ensuring safe machinery, but also illustrating diligence in exercising the duty of care.