Strategic Management for Higher Safety Performance

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SafeWork Australia reports that, work-related injury and disease cost our community $61.8 billion a year, with an average cost of $5000 per worker each year and equates to 4.1 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

The Work Health and safety Laws place an obligation on directors, managers or employers (PCBU) to ensure safety in the workplace.  To help manage the higher risk activities various standards and regulations apply and must be adhered to. These are laws, which place mandatory requirements to prevent or reduce the risk of injury to a person or property.  The Codes of Practice provide guidance, whilst licenses and permits are required for specific processes and tasks to ensure that the workers have specific skills and knowledge and competencies to carry out the high-risk work activity safely.
There are various principles in managing safety in workplace. One of these principles is a ‘safe system of work’.  This means that workplaces must have a system that is planned, organised, performed, maintained and reviewed as applicable to complete a work activity. This should be done, so far as is ‘reasonably practicable’.

The Health and Safety Authority states that large percentage of accidents occur due to lack of or failure in systems of work and at least a quarter of fatal accidents. This is why it is vital for the PCBU to ensure they have a ‘safe system of work’. Negligence in enforcing a ‘safe system of work’ can result in substantial fines and compensation.
This doesn’t even touch on the immeasurable cost of grief and trauma to workers and their families.

Safe System of Work is one of the principles of safety

Safe System of Work explains how a task or process will be carried out safely.  It is a procedure that results from a systematic examination of a working process, that identifies hazards and specifies work methods designed either to eliminate the hazards or controls and minimise the relevant risks.
This is achieved by following the 6 Basic steps.  Through this process safe work procedure are developed and a ‘Safe System of Work’ can be established.
The process is as follows:

  • Assessing work tasks
  • Identifying hazards and assessing risks
  • Defining safe methods
  • Implementing the safe system and
  • Monitoring the system

By following those basic steps the documented safe procedures are created that are representative of a safe system of work.  For example:

  • Safe Work Method Statement,
  • Job Safety Analysis
  • Safe Operational/work procedures.

In a nutshell, these safety procedures are based on a task analysis, that breaks down the job into specific steps and the conduct of a risk assessment on each of the steps to identify hazards, assess the level of risk and determine suitable control strategies. This information is then included in the operating instructions provided to the workers and utilised both in training and competency assessments.

These safety procedures are then delivered to the workers in the form of toolbox meetings, briefing sessions or training. The purpose of a safety procedure is to reduce the risk to health and safety in the workplace and reduce the likelihood of an injury by ensuring that workers know how to work safely when carrying out the tasks involved in their jobs.

Strategic Management for Higher Safety Performance » safety

Environmental Conditions must be considered when implementing safe systems of work.

Environmental safety relates to policies and procedures in the workplace environment.  It is particularly significant in work areas, such as laboratories or facilities, warehouses, factories where risk level are high and layout is important to efficiency; freedom of movement and high traffic. Some methods of controlling the risks and hazards in these workplaces would be erection of barricades.  See some example, that have worked well for various types of work places.

Some of these workplaces may be classified as having ‘High-Risk Work

High-Risk Work’ requires specific attentions and any workplace that is involved with high-risk must be diligent in ensuring that they follow through with their obligations as required by the law. 
Some examples of high-risk work types are:

  • cranes and hoists
  • forklift operation
  • rigging and dogging
  • scaffolding
  • pressure equipment.
  • reach Stackers

Workers carrying out high-risk work by operating these types of machinery requires licenses. Working with and around these mobile plants have the added dangers and this topic will be addressed in our next issue.

The importance of Review and Monitoring

A safe system of work is a tasks analysis that is planned, organised, performed, maintained and reviewed as applicable to complete a work activity.  This process helps in the development of a safe work/operational procedure which is the presented to your workers for education and feedback.  Once approved then it is used in completing the work activity.
Your safety procedure documents should be reviewed annually.  However, a review should be carried out where an incident or accident occurs; where there is an introduction to new plant, machinery or equipment or technology. 
When carrying out the review consider the following and ensure:

  • any new laws are considered
  • compliance with recent risk assessments
  • any accidents, injuries or diseases are taken into account to further improve controls
  • safer substances are considered
  • any new or modified plant/equipment is considered
  • new working methods are used
  • advances in technology are taken advantage of

After the review present the safety documents to your workers and get them to sign off.
“Systemisation makes your workplace efficient and easier to manage.  Less down time helps the bottom line”

“It would be better if everyone worked together as a system,
with the aim for everybody to win.”

Dr. W. Edwards Deming

SafeWork NSW Inspectors focus on the building & Construction Industry
Picture of Faith Eeson

Faith Eeson

Faith has over 20 years experience working in a large government organisations; medium and small business organisations with roles from administration, Workplace Safety Management System (OHSMS); Injury Management and Rehabilitation; Safety Audit; Records Management, Investigation and Training. Faith has owned and managed various business such as boutiques, retail stores and currently a commercial cleaning service and safety management businesses.



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