Don’t make managing workplace safety a bigger burden than it has to be. There are simple solutions. By ANDREW DOUGLAS
By Andrew Douglas
Don’t make managing workplace safety a bigger burden than it has to be. There are simple solutions.
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Recently I flew to Sydney for work and sat beside the operations manager of a large manufacturing plant.
He explained they had problems with safety, and to overcome this he had contracted out many of the high risks to contractors. He smiled delightedly as he told me – “sure, all my ducks are in a row”. How desperately wrong he was.
The obligation for businesses throughout Australia is to take all reasonably practicable steps to avoid the risk of injury to employees or people who are on the employer’s site. Simply stated, no matter how carefully you devolve responsibility, the buck stops with you. You are not immune from the errors of contractors.
The operations manager’s business had invested a large amount in “ridding” itself of risk. Yet the answers to avoiding risk are actually uncomplicated, and comparatively cheap, especially if the aim of the business is to:
- Reduce injury rates and severity of injuries.
- Decrease workers compensation premiums (in most jurisdictions, small contractors fall under the business premium).
- Prevent OH&S prosecutions.
The following steps will work:
- Have employees trained in OH&S and develop skilled OH&S employees on the ground.
- Ensure you have a safe system (that is, manuals of policies etc) that can be read, understood and applied, and reflects the work on the floor.
- As part of the system, develop inspection routines, risk management practices and reporting systems that ensure those who enjoy the delegation of responsibility must abide by and report to you.
- Induct contractors into the system and ensure they are trained in the relevant OH&S skills to manage the work they undertake.
- Encourage all employees to blow the whistle on risks and hazards and then act promptly to correct it.
There are many reasons to delegate jobs to contractors: there are no on-costs; specialised skills are required intermittently, so there is no need for them on the payroll; and no need to own expensive plant and equipment.
So how do you manage contractor risk? Again the answer is not difficult:
- Ensure they have up-to-date induction into your OH&S system.
- Assess with the contractor the risks of their job and ensure the contractor has up-to-date training in those areas of risk identified.
- Develop a plan with the contractor or have them develop a plan that covers each risk and includes a reporting structure back to you.
- Regularly inspect what the contractor is doing to be sure they meet the plan and are managing all hazards and potential hazards.
- Document the induction, training, risk assessment, plan and reporting structure and audit routinely.
You do not have to fell trees to document. A simple, clear process will make it easy to comply with and transparent to audit. If you take these simple steps, your employees, supervisors and managers will provide the eyes and ears you need on the ground to make it safe.
Andrew Douglas is the founder, principal lawyer and managing director of Douglas Workplace & Litigation Lawyers. Andrew is an experienced commercial litigation and workplace lawyer, who acts both as a solicitor and advocate.
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