risk management

Industrial manslaughter – It’s coming

In line with increases in support for Worksafe WA, the bill for industrial manslaughter is in place and starting a few conversations. While it’s reserved for the more extreme cases, it’s not to be ignored if you’re working in a position of responsibility in a workplace with hazards significant enough to cause a fatality.

Media release: Industrial manslaughter

Criminal Code Amendment (Industrial Manslaughter) Bill 2017

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No work = some results, but do you deserve them?

Without effort in the HSEQ space, plenty of workplaces still get finely rewarded for their laziness. It’s fundamental. It’s easier, often faster and you often then make more money etc. etc.

It’s a common thing to see work occurring for an organisation which I know has strict HSEQ requirements of their team members and/or contractors. At a contractual level, the businesses doing things well can often get beaten into submission by the race to the bottom when they get out bid by a competitor who undercuts them – but them makes profit by failing to follow through with any of their HSEQ commitments.

Now I’m not talking about general ones about “duty of care” and “work safely” which can have a wide range of interpretations. I’m talking about ones where the commercial client has made those tendering for the work to state they’ll comply with very specific requirements and provide evidence of this in order to be in the running. That’s not a bad thing and in today’s age of cost effectiveness and efficiency, I’m the first one to agree with reducing wastage and that includes money wasted in the HSEQ space. The issue is when a contractor bids at a price they know they cannot achieve, so does the high risk work at 3-4am in the morning – clearly and knowingly breaching the explicit requirements they said they’d achieve in order to generate a profit margin where before there was none.

The sad thing is that, it’s probable they’ll get away with it most of the time. That’s the nature of risk – you’re basing things off a probability, and it might work out ok. It also might not.

The ISO 31000:2018 definition of risk is “the effect of uncertainty on objectives”, so are you willing to put catastrophic consequence potential into a job just to make a profit? I hear and see (including just today…) this still commonly.

But, I am not here to police people to do the right thing when they’re only going to hurt themselves. If they wish to do dumb stuff, then that’s their call. What I am concerned about is the ubiquitous race to the bottom for price and the impact it has on those doing the right thing to cut corners in order to win work. My morale challenge is knowing despite increasing pressure to demonstrate how they’ll do the right thing, but budgets and market pressure encouraging them to not follow through. It’s perfectly understandable that people give up and leave their relevant industries or just end up cutting corners knowing they’ll likely get more reward for the wrong thing than the right thing……..well that is until someone falls out of their EWP or gets hit by a car that never saw them working there.

My advice is always that the cowboys are getting less and less now given most people don’t do the wrong thing out of clear knowledgeable violation. They generally do it thinking they’re OK. So while organisations are asking for contractors to demonstrate they’re going to be doing the right thing, those who don’t know what the right thing is are going to win less and less work, and get forced into smaller and smaller sections of the market. Once this is occurring, the impact of price becomes less of an issue because then the true positive impact of reliability and good HSEQ outcomes will be far more profitable than risking everything on a small gain.

To summarise, I’ll say to keep on doing the right thing regardless of these cowboys out there. They’ll be winning less work and be having more incidents. When you’re talking about significant falls from heights, or a fire at a fuel station, or a worker or member of the public getting hit by a vehicle in your workplace, it’s not likely to be cheaper than all the profit margins you’d save by cutting a few corners. In fact, for most small to medium sized businesses, it’s unlikely they’ll still be in business afterwards.

And all that will be left are those doing the right thing. Then you’ll be thankful for the outcomes you deserved from your hard work. And the cowboys will be regretting the outcomes they deserved…

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Lead is more harmful than dragons

While Game of Thrones has now ended and it showed how harmful a grumpy girl on a dragon can be, lead is a far bigger concern for us mere mortals. While we know lead is a hazardous substance, it is still not uncommon for organisations to struggle to understand what defines lead-risk work and how to manage this risk.

Our advice has generally been that if any of your team members work in contact with lead or products containing lead (even if it’s a model dragon like the picture), they’re quite likely working in a lead-risk job unless you can prove otherwise. If the contact is minimal and you’ve got no data confirming their blood is lead free,  you’ll likely be hard pressed to justify not treating them like they could currently be or may become exposed. If lead contact is incidental and you’ve got a system in place that shows workers have no lead in their blood over the range of work situations, it’s possible you may have the hazard effectively managed. Obviously each situation is unique so this blog post isn’t to be taken as advice from Dr Google – we’d need to dig a little deeper to do that!

There is further detail in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (WA), but one update recently has been the reduction in the threshold of levels found in the blood before escalated actions are needed for the protection of the health of the worker. Having worked in industries for a number of years where I lived with a baseline blood lead level in a range now deemed unacceptable, I cannot express enough the need to work hard at managing lead exposure at the source. It takes time to drop after it’s discovered in one of your workers, and for cost reasons if nothing else, it’s quite an expensive exercise while you’re waiting for them to come down. That goes without saying, the impact on being TOLD by Worksafe to fix certain things in the workplace is likely greater than doing them under your own direction at your own pace.

If you wish to chat to us for further clarification or ideas on translating this section of the legislation into human speak, give us a call or drop us message on the Contact Us tab of the website.

Or just click on the link below to their website to see the Worksafe publication on the topic.

Worksafe media release

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ISO Certification earns more than it costs

Do you want more work with bigger clients instead of all the effort of chasing lots of little invoices all the time?

The bigger clients such as large contractors, State Government departments or local shires often require their contracting partners to be ISO certified for 9001 Quality, 14001 Environmental and 45001 OHS management systems of they want to do project work of any scale.

We can help you gain pre-qualification for these agencies and can conduct certification audits for accreditation against these standards and are locally owned and run, based right here in Albany and work all across the Great Southern, and across the country. Our clients benefit from our expertise in gaining work with organisations such as the Water Corporation, Western Power, Main Roads, Main Roads and many others.

Contact us to discuss the value these processes can offer for your business.



ISO standards win contracts

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What injuries are acceptable while in training?

It’s known that a worker is more susceptible to being injured while under training. Often the training is actually put in place to reduce the risk of injuries actually happening in the first place. But when we talk about military or police training, it’s often brushed over as an acceptable risk due to the increased risks associated with their job once fully qualified.

Now, while in some ways, I don’t disagree, thinking about it that way doesn’t excuse simple failures of design and planning. Some hazards are intrinsic in their nature and need to be experienced if one is to be able to perform their job safely once trained. Working with explosives, firearms, plant or machinery or sharp knives in a kitchen all need to be experienced directly during the training process in order to be able to do the job once ‘trained’.

While, I’ll not comment directly on the case or the circumstances of two recruits being injured at Puckapunyal linked below, catastrophic potential hazards indirectly related to the specific training or competency should have additional precautions put in place at the planning stage to protect workers, even more so for trainees. I’m unaware of what the specific failings which led to the two recruits injuries and the charges the Department of Defence subsequently received except the article below stating they related to risk management and hazard identification. It’s doubly sad given I clearly remember being told time and time again about very similar incidents occurring during my time in the military.

To illustrate the point about protecting trainees: if you’re training a young apprentice fitter/mechanic, but one that doesn’t yet have the experience ‘on the levers’ of a plant operator, they should not be set up to fail by getting them to drive the machine over the wash bay before they’ve had the time on the ground to learn traffic management, and how the machine behaves, what to do/not to do etc. Even trained fitters are a danger operating plant because they can often miss the proper training of ‘operator skills’, yet think their knowledge of the engine etc. is enough to overcome nuances taught in hours behind the levers or wheel. Couple this with an industry arrogance of knowing better because of a trade is absolutely a reason why maintenance staff are disproportionally more likely to be killed around plant if you factor in their hours of actually operating the machines.

I’m not trying to add fuel to the fitter/operator argument, as it’s just one small example among many where we can easily put workers at risk unnecessarily especially during training. Too often hazards like this are ignored because they’re peripheral issues to the core theme of the job or the training, and easily missed when risk assessing these activities. These are the ones that seem to slip through more often when under training, and that tells me one thing.

This one thing is if these hazards are injuring/killing workers when the experience is lower or the training hasn’t been completed, that training or experience is being heavily relied upon as the critical and often only key control. It’s a reminder we need to think broader about how we train workers so they get experience around the core competencies while protecting them from getting killed or injured by other hazards sitting in our blind spots (e.g. above our heads in the dark).

Training is important. Training that evolves to be realistic and often quite realistic or hazardous is often essential. Don’t forget the trainee still needs to be able to focus on those things so they get benefit from the training.

So don’t forget to protect them from semi or unrelated hazards in their workplace while they learn.

Comcare media release: Recruits injured during training

Note: Image used purely for illustration purposes. It is unrelated to the Comcare media release or this blog post. Please contact the author for credit/request for deletion.
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We may be doing enough, but are we doing it right?

With 2 workplace deaths in WA in very recent times, what are we doing differently to make sure our workplace is never going to have to experience the horror of having this happen to a member of your team. And don’t play down my use of the word “horror”, by thinking it’s only others who have to experience this. There is only one way to ensure you’ll not have to……



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Information of mis-information?

Are you focussed on addressing the right risks?

Too often misinformation can redirect valuable finite resources from the right risks to other less critical places due to fear or distraction.

Use a professional to help you determine where your risk management efforts should be spent.

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