Evolution of the Safe Systems of Work.
The WHS Legislation in Australia has evolved from Britain out of the Roben’s Report into the state of health and safety in England in the late 1960’s. The result of this report established the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in England. One of the key principles enshrined in this legislation is the Primary Duty of Care. For more information on the Roben’s report please go to the British Safety Council and read the article on the topic.
This section of the current lists a series of the must haves for businesses including to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work. The phrase Safe Systems of Work was born from years of Common Law cases in England. The wording ‘Safe System of Work’ is still used today to describe one of the many duties of the business.
The system being developed for the safety of the workers usually includes a set of procedures defining how the work must be carried out. The legislation has several Regulations and information in Codes of Practice that are used to define this Safe System where the hazard cannot be eliminated, and risk remains. When developing a safe systems of work, businesses need to consider how the work is carried out and the difficulties that might arise and expose workers to risk.
Then develop a set of procedures detailing the steps on how the work must be completed to minimise or reduce the risk. Engaging a Safety Consultant to assist through this process can assist in the process by prompting staff to extrapolate the steps to a definite step and better understand the hazards that are part of the process.
Safe Systems of Work must be developed in consultation with the workers and management to ensure completeness and understanding of the process. Not all Safe Systems of work need to be written however they still need to be understood by the persons who may be exposed to the hazard. Ultimately this will depend on the complexity of the work involved. For example, high-risk activities with a risk of serious injury or death should have well documented safe systems of work.
This documented system of work must be supported by supervision and enforcement depending on the severity of the risk. The safety consultant can bring with them a wealth of knowledge and questions for staff to ponder as part of the process of documentation development.
What is the process for developing Safe Systems of Work?
A Safety Consultant can take you through these 6 steps and assist your business in developing robust safe systems of work. They can also assist in mentoring staff to take over this role and complete the task in house. The safety Consultant can then be used to complete a safety audit on the development process to ensure that the systems developed remain suitable.
– Selecting and defining the task to be assessed,
– Break the tasks down into logical steps to identify the hazards,
– Thoroughly assessing the tasks and recording the process,
– Develop the safe work method,
– Test and implement the safe work method, and
– Monitor the safe system of work.
The level of documentation required for a Safe System of Work may vary based on the risk level. For example, a low-risk job may only require verbal instruction and brief written safety rules, while a high-risk job may require a formal written permit to work system.
Whatever the method, a typical safe system of work template should cover:
– How to safely set up the task and any authorisation required,
– The conditions which must be confirmed before work starts,
– The key steps of the task and the hazards to be aware of,
– The approved safe working methods, including, if appropriate, how to get to and from the task area, and
– How to dismantle and dispose of equipment or waste at the end of the task.
How does Communication and training fit in?
Once the documented Safe System has been developed all persons involved in the task must receive information, instruction and training depending on the level of their involvement in the task. All workers must be adequately trained to carry out the process correctly as per the documentation for the safe system of work. Workers should be assessed as part of this training to ensure that they are competent to perform the tasks.
Training should not be only a show and tell but include an assessment where the participant demonstrates their understanding of the steps in the procedure. The Safety Consultant can assist with the development of the training course to be completed inhouse. They can deliver the training then mentor suitable staff to continue training and assessing workers in the task.
What monitoring and review processes do I need?
Finally, there must be arrangements for adequate supervision and monitoring of safe systems of work to uphold compliance. The frequency and depth of the supervision must be determinant on the level of risk and the work history of the workers in the task. a scheduled review of the safe systems of work must be planned to be completed on a regular basis or whenever there are changes relating to the work activity. this review would be completed with the workers who complete the task and the supervisors to discuss possible changes or improvements in the safe system.
Once the system has been implemented, a safety audit by a qualified Safety Consultant will also provide recommendations for improvement and record where the system is working well.
An example reason to develop good safe systems of work.
A cleaning company and officer were sentenced after worker falls four metres through a skylight. On 13 January 2023, a cleaning company and its officer were sentenced in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with their primary health and safety duties pursuant to sections 19(1) and 27(1), respectively. Whilst completing the task one of the workers walked across the roof of the building and fell approximately four metres through a skylight onto tiled floor.
In the closing comments Magistrate Stjernkvist noted that the defendant company needed to have in place systems to protect its workers. A fine of $20,000 was imposed on the defendant company along with $1,601.40 in costs. The officer was fined $4,000 along with $101.40 in costs.
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