Under the regulations for general workplaces all businesses and undertakings have to identify all hazards and risks.  You must include your staff in the process of identification.  They may know of issues that you have never thought of or identified before.

Once you have identified the risks you should eliminate them if it is practicable to do so.  As an example no one uses asbestos building products these days.  The risks have been identified, are common knowledge and there are far safer alternatives available.  However, I have never come across a silent skill saw.  Noisy equipment continues to be used so if you cannot eliminate the hazard (noise) you need to minimise it (ear protectors).  For the saw dust from the cutting you minimise with breathing masks, extractor fans and filters etc. Once again staff must be engaged in the process of planning for risk minimisation.

If possible the first step in minimising any risk should be to isolate the risk (perhaps behind a locked gate, fence, cupboard etc).

If people need to be near the hazard then engineering controls are used e.g. a guard on machinery like the guard on a skill saw blade that swings into place.

The next step is to put in place administrative controls.  Those set out the method of work to avoid injuries e.g. ensuring you are working on a flat and stable worksite or checking all safety equipment and guards are in place and working.

After those procedures you then move to safety equipment such as ear protectors, eye goggles, dust masks, chemical suits, hard hats, steel capped boots, and safety vests. It is unlawful to require staff to provide their own safety equipment. However, they can provide their own (so long as it is appropriate for the task) if they let you know they want to supply their own.

You must ensure that any control methods you put in place are effective, installed, used (properly) and regularly reviewed. A plan that no one knows about or is not kept up to date is no use in preventing injuries.

You must make sure your staff get all necessary information, training, supervision and instruction on what they need to do.  You need to monitor to ensure that the processes are being adhered to and pull up anyone not following the processes.  If they will not change their ways then a disciplinary process may be necessary.  It is your neck on the line if they are not following instructions and you let them get away with it.

You must provide first aid equipment in the workplace suitable for the workplace and sufficient trained first aiders.

Ensure you have your emergency plan in place and work hard to get a culture of safety in your workplace so you don’t injure any of your colleagues, customers or visitors. Make sure you document your plan and document the steps you took to arrive at the plan. Keep these records so you can show WorkSafe that you took appropriate steps. See our website for a simple to follow H&S plan.

Alan Knowsley
Health and Safety Lawyer