Earlier this year we started a 4 part series that spells out the key reasons why investing in the management of machinery safety is good for business.
Regardless of the nature or location of your business and the experience of your machine operators, being proactive with managing machinery safety is crucial for anyone who owns, uses, sells or hires out plant and equipment.
To re-cap, these four key reasons are:
Reduced incidents and injuries
Reduced likelihood of prosecution
More efficient business processes
Improved customer service
This piece expands on the second reason – the reduced likelihood of legal ramifications and financial penalties stemming from a major incident.
In short, major incidents are bad for business for many reasons, including:
Someone has been hurt and will be incapacitated for a period of time and need to be rehabilitated and brought back into the workforce
That person’s role will need to be backfilled creating a skills shortage
It’s bad for your reputation
Prosecutions and/or legal cases are time consuming and costly and fines or damages are bad for profitability and cashflow
In recent years the size of fines handed down by prosecutors has increased sharply so there is a distinct chance an adverse finding will result in a far more substantial financial penalty, which will impact the financial health of your business.
At the extreme end of the penalty scale, a key person in your business could even be sent to jail which would impact continuity and profitability more than any monetary penalty!
A fatality or catastrophic injury in the workplace is the stuff of nightmares for any business owner or senior manager. The personal impact on the family, friends and workmates of a staff member who has been killed or critically injured at work is the most difficult aspect of any such incident.
In addition to this grief, there will be significant down time and the distinct possibility of a regulatory investigation and prosecution. These proceedings are often lengthy, intrusive 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 a workplace death or significant injury.
An inspector will seek to identify the cause of an incident and whether this represents a significant breach of an employer’s duties under the legislation. The details of specific obligations are covered in the Plant Safety Legislation section of our website, however a number of obligations are common across the WHS legislation in all Australian jurisdictions.
Employers and managers have a duty of care to ensure the safety of employees and must illustrate due diligence in exercising this duty of care. Central to this is the expectation to follow the process of hazard identification, risk assessment and control – especially around high risk areas such as plant & equipment.
All incidents (and any subsequent prosecutions) 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 however, history shows it is common for prosecutors to focus heavily upon the diligence and effort shown by a defendant and this diligence is often best illustrated by evidence of proactive risk assessment and control.
Further, in most jurisdictions, there are specific expectations that duty holders will identify, assess and control of risks relating to the use of plant and equipment.
Plant and equipment is involved in a statistically high proportion of catastrophic incidents and consequently, it is central to a relatively high percentage of prosecutions.
As such, the treatment of plant and equipment is subject to specific obligations in relation to risk assessment and the application of specific controls.
The good news is that the assessment of machinery and equipment is more finite, structured and simple to manage compared to many other potential hazards.
Therefore, having a thorough and well documented system of plant and machinery risk assessment should be 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 a duty of care.
We have developed a comprehensive Plant Safety Management System Health Check process which is proving extremely popular as a benchmarking & gap analysis tool.
If you are interested in the health check process or just to discuss this further – please contact us on 1300 728 852.
Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.