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Focus on safety in the festive season

Submitted on Friday, 23rd November 2018

In the last two weeks there has been significant media coverage of two tragic workplace fatalities involving a high voltage explosion at a Latrobe Valley Power Station and a young worker’s death in a confined space in Melbourne.

As the festive season approaches, the pace and urgency of business increases in the busy lead up to Christmas, holidays and scheduled shutdowns for repairs and preventative maintenance.

This is one of the most critical periods for strong workplace safety leadership and standards to be applied and maintained. Thus there needs to be increased levels of due diligence and supervision of work to ensure workplace injuries or worse do not occur.

One area that often suffers from less time and resources is the effective job safety planning process. This is often seen in the form of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) or Job Safety Assessments (JSA).

These critical job safety planning templates create, when developed in consultation with all those affected, a protective work system that when followed should ensure hazards and risks are identified and the best blend of effective controls are chosen.

WorkSafe Victoria research and claims data shows that in manufacturing, trade qualified staff make up 25% of the total manufacturing workforce but make up more than 60% of the reported injuries and fatalities.

There are two key reasons for this:

  • a distinct lack of job/task/hazards and controls planning: and
  • gaps in effective supervision, especially for those working alone

Trades staff and contractors are often given a breakdown or problem to diagnose, repair and reinstate and are then expected to go about this work without any time or effort placed on job planning. This means they often need to create their “system” of work as they go or “on the fly” and  can often be working on shift alone as well. This is especially a concern when the pace and urgency of work increases such as during the Christmas/holiday season.

The solutions to these concerns rests with managers ensuring enough time and resources are provided to:

  • plan this work properly and in advance of the work commencing, including identifying the level of risks the work tasks create, and creating a protective system of work, and
  • ensuring the amount and frequency supervision in place matches the levels of competency and experience, or lack of competency and experience, of the employees carrying out the work.

This approach is especially important for supporting young workers where much higher levels of job planning, training and induction and supervision are critical. The Victorian Chamber, in partnership with EML have developed checklists, guidance and webinars to assist in understanding and managing young workers.

The Victorian Chamber’s Health Safety and Wellbeing (HSW) team are highly qualified and experienced in reviewing, preparing and improving your employee and contractor safety management procedures and practices, and upskilling your staff in these complex safety management needs as the festive season gathers pace.

For more information please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au to discuss your needs.

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