Monitoring safety systems in your business.
The Harmonised WHS Legislation that has been enacted across all states and territories in Australia (apart from Victoria). Businesses are required to (amongst other provisions) identify hazards in their workplace; identify the risks; decide on and implement robust controls then ensure that there is a system that monitoring safety systems on a regular basis to ensure that all is good. The process of monitoring safety systems is often not completed effectively or in some instances, not at all. A business may be exposed, and should a person be injured, and the outcome proves that they are negligent for not implementing or monitoring safety systems.
How a Safety Consultant can assist you in monitoring Safety Systems.
Safety consultants can help a business by monitoring safety systems and completing a safety audit to ensure they are meeting the required standards. This may include conducting regular safety inspections and audits, reviewing safety policies and procedures, and helping to ensure that the employees are following them. Furthermore, the consultant can serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for the business, ensuring that all safety regulations are being followed and any areas of weakness are addressed quickly and effectively.
Regular safety audits or inspections are methods of monitoring the workplace health and safety program. An effective program completed by a qualified Safety Consultant will assist the business in verifing that safety systems and safety procedures are working. Targeted Safety Audits also identify where there are any opportunities for improvement in your work methods, hazard identification, safety procedures, risk assessments and general business practices.
The different types of audits can be conducted by a Safety Consultant to evaluate:
– Your own safe working standards/practices
– Compliance audit to an Industry Code of Practice
– Compliance with a legislative framework (Procedures Audit)
– Compliance with a known safety systems standard such as AS/NZS ISO 45001
– Compliance with a technical product safety standard.
Regular audits can be conducted internally by your own trained staff or externally by one of our Safety Consultant who are certified auditors. There are advantages and disadvantages of both internal and external audits. Each type of safety audit is designed to address specific health and safety risks and requirements, and businesses may choose to conduct one or multiple types of audits, depending on their specific needs and objectives. In either instance we are available to further assist by providing general consultancy to see recommendations implemented and working as planned.
Whilst there are specific controls set in the various pieces of WHS Legislation and the approved Codes of Practice, court also look at precedents when deciding if a business is seen to be negligent. The personal injury alone, does not show a business was at fault as there must be a measure of negligence on their part. (Kirk v Industrial Relations Commission  HCA 1) Slips trips and falls are one of the more common instances where customers, visitors and secondary occupiers in shopping centers are injured.
A dropped grape, piece of cooked onion or other item may pose a slip, trip and falls risk to unwary passers-by. These businesses have been aware of these hazards (amongst others) and have been implementing controls over the years. Businesses have implemented many systems such as placing cameras around the shopping center to monitor for security, safety and as one method of recording the staff specifically tasked with cleaning and checking areas for safe access passage. More permanent controls like placing matting at the building entrance on wet days to reduce the slip, trip and falls risk to varying degrees of effectiveness.
However, their processes for monitoring safety systems are usually poor to nonexistent this is where a targeted safety audit can help. Parties that are injured in these areas may attempt to recoup compensation for the injury off the Business where there is a duty owed and the business can be proven to be negligent. Safety Consultants can help businesses identify potential hazards and develop strategies to reduce the risk of injury or illness. They can also help businesses create safety policies and procedures that are tailored to their specific needs. Additionally, Safety Consultants can provide training and education to employees on how to properly use safety equipment and follow safety protocols.
A quick search of the internet fills the first page of the search engine with a plethora of advice from legal companies to aggrieved parties on how to seek compensation. Many of these businesses do have internal systems in place to offer a quick resolution of a possible claim by offering payment (almost) immediately upon signing a legal document releasing the Business from any further claim for the injury. Though this has been seen as a quick resolution of the possible court case and damage to reputation, there has been an uptake in instances where the slip, trip or fall was planned so as to receive the money without any further analysis. Businesses have been aware of this and now employ additional staff to monitor for possible fraudulent activities.
NOTE: This discussion below does not in any way infer that a person or persons inferred or stated to, in the cases in question were in any manner acting fraudulently.
Examples of how two separate businesses monitored their safety systems.
The following two cases are used as examples of how the courts may look at how the business went about identifying hazards, implementing appropriate controls and monitoring safety systems.
- In one instance where the business appealed the primary Judges findings of negligence where Justice Gleeson (with whom Justices Basten and Payne agreed) stated that ‘keeping a proper lookout in accordance with instructions to maintain vigilance for hazards on the floor, such as grapes, does not mean a perfect lookout’.
- However, in a different court case, the injured party proved that there was in fact negligence on the part of the business. In that decision ‘A system of dedicated inspection would have detected a grape or other spill or slip hazard in the area,’ the judgement said. ‘Thus, if a reasonable system would have included hourly (or more frequent) inspection, the probability is that such a system would have prevented the harm that occurred.’
In both instances the business implemented a simple system of regular checks to ensure that any spill or unwanted items were not placed or left in the travelled path becoming a hazard to workers and customers and failed to monitoring safety systems. However, the business that relied on an unstructured process where workers were required to look after their own work area and to identify hazards as they moved through the business failed, as it was not a dedicated process for monitoring safety systems.
Businesses must ensure that workers are not left to control hazards in the workplace but that a monitored structured system is in place where there are workers that ‘supervise’ and monitor the workers implementing the system to ensure that it is being completed properly to the required outcome. Notably in this decision there may be a president set, where the decision included a measure of an hourly (or more frequent) inspection.
So, to reiterate, under the WHS Legislation enacted across Australia, Businesses are required to identify hazards in their workplace; identify the risks; decide on and implement robust controls then ensure that there is a system that monitoring safety systems on a regular basis to ensure that all is good. Importantly, businesses must be also aware of the various decisions that may affect the outcome of a negligence claim made by an aggrieved party.
We have qualified and certified Safety Consultants that can assist you in your business and offer a range of WHS consulting services along with general and specific health and safety training courses.
Contact us today for an obligation free quote on any of our services including conducting a safety audit of your systems.