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Work Health and Safety

Risk Management Code of Practice

In this 40-minute session, we look at the Risk Management Code of Practice (CoP). We cover: who has WHS duties; the four-step process; keeping records, appendices & a summary of detailed requirements; and further commentary. This CoP is one of the two that are generally applicable.

The Risk Management Code of Practice (Demo of the full, 40-minute, video).

Risk Management Code of Practice: Topics

Risk Management Code of Practice (CoP):

  • Who has WHS duties;
  • The four-step process;
  • Keeping records, appendices & summary of detailed requirements;
  • Further commentary; and
  • Where to get more information.

Risk Management Code of Practice: Transcript

Risk Management Code of Practice: Transcript

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Safety Artisan. I’m Simon, your host, and today we’re going to be talking about the Risk Management Code of Practice.

Today we’re talking about the Risk Management Code of Practice. It’s a code of practice that I’ve used myself. I’ve used it to guide my work and to guide other people to help them in their work. I’ve used it to simplify the whole practice of what we do because once you know what you’re supposed to do, you can do that and then you don’t have to worry about working out what you need to do. And conversely, it’s giving you everything you need to do so you can do more if you want to, but you don’t have to. So, it makes life a lot easier and simpler. And then finally, you can use it to justify what you’ve done. That what you’ve done is correct, and what you’ve done is complete and is enough. So, it’s very useful and that’s why I’m teaching it because it makes life easier.

And I’m going to explain how to use it- you’ll still need to go away and read the Code of Practice, as you’ll see, to get all the details – but I’m going to go through the leading particulars and explain how to use it. And then finally, at the end of the session, I’m going to show you where you can get more help on this topic and indeed other related topics because this Code of Practice is one of several. And there’s one other that you must refer to. This Risk Management Code of Practice is one that you really can’t do without. There is one more and then the others are optional, depending on whether you’re working in their respective areas. Anyway, let’s get on with it.

Code of Practice: Risk Management

So we’re talking about the Risk Management Code of Practice, which is under Australian Work Health and Safety Law. Now, if you’re not operating in Australia, this is not a requirement for you but nevertheless, it does contain some very useful guidance. And I’ve seen similar requirements in the US and in the UK, and I suspect all across the English-speaking world.

Topics for this Session

So, what we’re going to cover today. First of all, who has WHS duties because it’s a wider group of people than you might think it is. There’s the four-step process for actually doing risk management. And then I think we’ve got a slide each on keeping records, the appendices in the Code of Practice, and a summary of the detailed requirements in the Code of Practice. Then I’ve provided some further commentary and, as I’ve said before, where to get more information.

Who has WHS Duties?

So, first of all, who has WHS duties? Well, it’s kind of everybody. First of all, if you are a person conducting a business or undertaking or a PCBU for short, then you have duties. And it says business or undertaking, so it includes voluntary groups, non-profit, government, military, you name it. It doesn’t have to be a commercial business. Then you have duties if you are a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier, or if you install test or commission plant substances or structures. So again, a wide range of people.

And it’s not just about managing safety in a workplace. There’re lots of duties on duty holders with upstream software- sorry not software, upstream safety duties. Like designers and manufacturers. Then finally, officers have additional duties and an officer basically is like a director of a company that sort of level. So, senior management with control over resources and they have to provide due diligence. So, there’s a bunch of requirements on them as well. And then, of course, there’s the workers and any visitors. They’ve got to cooperate and take reasonable care of themselves and look out for each other, which is all very important.

And as it says, and this is a quote from the CoP, “A person can have more than one duty at the same time, and more than one person can share the same duty”. So, you can’t go playing tag, as it were. A sort of a responsibility tag. ‘It wasn’t me. It was him. Governor!’ The court ultimately decides who is responsible.

A Four-Step Process

So, in our four-step process, we have; first of all, we have to identify hazards. We have to assess the risks. So, we need to look at causes and consequences. And the CoP doesn’t say this, but exposure comes into it as well. So, a risk might be present, but if nobody is exposed to that risk, then you can’t hurt them. So, that’s an important point to remember. And controlling exposure is important to one degree or another in almost all areas, but very important in certain industries. Those industries that have got the real estate to be able to separate the risky thing from the human and this is very useful. So step three, we have to control risks. And then step four, we have to review control measures because it’s recognized that these control measures will be in place for some time, for the lifetime of whatever it is we’re doing or undertaking. So, they need to be periodically reviewed and there’s guidance on that.

Now, I keep saying guidance – take a look at the introduction to Codes of Practice and you will see why Codes of Practice are a bit more than guidance. They are guidance that you cannot afford to ignore because if things go wrong, you will get hung out to dry based on what CoP said you should have done. So, if you are ignorant of what CoP said and haven’t done it, then you’re stuffed basically before you even start. That’s point one to note.

And secondly, you’ll notice in the diagram on the left, we’ve got management commitment at the centre and we’ve got consultation all the way around. And there’s another Code of Practice, the Code of Practice on Communication, Cooperation and Coordination . So the C,C&C CoP and that is the other CoP that is essential. So, this one and the C, C and C CoP you must have a look at because they apply to everything in effect. Let’s move on.

Step 1, Identify Hazards

So, first of all, we need to identify hazards. Now, CoP is written for any Australian business or undertaking, so it’s pretty basic. It’s pretty pragmatic, but it’s pretty basic and it’s got a workplace focus. So, it says inspect the workplace, look around, talk to your workers. Now, I work in a business and day job for a consultancy where we, generally speaking, are not looking at an existing workplace, but we’re helping a customer buy or assure a complex product that’s going to come into service at some time in the future. So, there are no current workers to discuss, but we always do try and include end-user representatives in our safety workshops. So, you may not be able to consult workers directly, but you should try and include people who have relevant work experience.

Secondly, the CoP tells us to use good work design and safe design. Now that’s a whole topic in itself and I’ve got some guidance on safe design. If you go to that safety artisan.com page on safe design (www.safetyartisan.com/welcome/safe-design), you will see it and I’ll take you through the subject and refer you on to the source material itself.

Thirdly, we need to consult supply chains and networks. I think that works two ways. First of all, when you get people to supply you stuff, make sure that they supply the data that you need. The safety data, all the information that you need to take and use the product safely. And that’s part of the duty on all of these duty holders, on the designer, the manufacturer, the importer, the supplier. They all have duties to pass on the relevant safety information but make sure you ask for it in your contract. And secondly, suppliers, particularly if you’re buying an expensive piece of kit off them, suppliers can be an excellent source of information. If they’re the designers, then they know this kit better than anybody else. Make use of their expertise, contract them to do some work for you and take part of the load off you. They are best placed to do some of the work, so get them to do it.

And then fourthly, it says review available information. Now, this is very important. There’s historical information or there should be – it’s not always easy to come by sometimes. Do make the effort to get actual historical information for your piece of kit, maybe from the supplier. Or if you can’t do that, if it’s a new piece of kit, then try and get information on similar equipment, or services, or functionality, or go to a trade organization, or go to the regulator depending on what domain you’re in. Do look around for historical information. It is out there. It can be hard to find, but it is worth the effort because, again, the guidance requires it. So, if you don’t do it, if you don’t bother or you’ve not made reasonable efforts to do so, you’ll get clobbered if things go wrong.

And then it’s also advisable to compliment that historical information with diverse approaches. One of them is you can use a hazard checklist approach, and we talk about that in the session on preliminary hazard identification. There are lots of checklists freely available out there on the Internet. Some are general and some are more specific to different pieces of kit or different domains. Try and find the most relevant one for you and use it. And then maybe there are specific safety analyses techniques that you can use as well so have a go at those. And a lot of them are quite simple so don’t be put off. You don’t have to necessarily have to get an expensive consultant in to do this for you. A lot of these techniques are really quite simple and just require a bit of imagination and a little bit of self-discipline in the way you go about it. And I talk about analysis methods for hazard identification in that same session on Preliminary Hazard Identification (PHI).  

So, that’s identifying hazards.

Step 2, Assess Risks

Step two, we need to assess the risks. So, if we recall risk is a combination of likelihood and severity. So, how likely is the harm could arise? And how severe is that harm? The way to do that, the CoP says, is to work out how hazards may cause harm. And as always, don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions. That’s part of my job as a consultant. You’re allowed to turn up and ask dumb questions. Or maybe sensitive questions that nobody in the firm dares to ask because they think they get fired. So, be brave and do try and work out how to ask the questions in a non-threatening way, but do ask the questions.

Work out how severe the harm could be. What is the worst credible consequence? And also, to keep it simple, what’s the worst direct consequence? Yes, you can come up with a fanciful chain of events that will lead to ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’, but keep it direct would be my advice. At least to start with. It’s better to get a range of stuff than to work one scenario to the nth degree, I would suggest.

Then work out the likelihood of that harm occurring. Very often the most severe harm can only occur when there is a particular combination of circumstances. And if you read any kind of accident report, even in the press, you’ll very often say this was happening and it just so happened on this particular day that somebody wasn’t available to supervise and then this went wrong and something else went wrong. And then the final result of this chain of consequences was somebody gets hurt. So, do factor in all of those things.

There are probably lots of existing controls already unless you’re doing something very novel indeed, which is unusual. So, do look at what’s there and record it all. Conversely, do be aware of the ‘it will never happen brigade’ is I’ve met several people who say, ‘Oh, that will never happen; or was it ‘No British pilot would be stupid enough to do that. Ho, ho, ho.’ I was foolish enough to believe that. Anyway, that’s another story. So, don’t believe the people who say, ‘It can never happen’. Well, if I say, ‘OK, what’s the justification? Why can it never happen? Where’s the evidence for that claim?’ So, do dig into those responses.

There’s more detail in the Code of Practice. There are some good questions to ask in the workplace. And with a bit of imagination, you can take your imaginary piece of kit and sort of think about it in the workplace and go, ‘Well, let’s think up a suitable question.’ So, there’s good guidance in there. Historical data can’t be beat as a reality check and it shuts up the naysayers as well because if you can pull out information, say, ‘Well this accident has happened and it’s happened lots of times to lots of good people who thought they were clever’. So, it shuts up the naysayers do work hard to get the historical data. It’s fantastic if you can get it.

And then, as I said before, there are multiple specialist cause and consequence analysis techniques available. I talk about some of them and in other posts that I’ve already done, and I will talk about more in the future. But you may not need that level of sophistication. It’s always better to do some good basic work as early as you can. Then maybe if you come up against something and say, ‘We’re not cracking this. We suspect there’s a problem, but we can’t be sure’ then think about bringing out big guns. But if you’ve done the basic work first, that will really help you zero in on the areas where you think you need to do more work.

Step 3, Control Risks

The third one, controlling risks. Really, this is what it’s all about because you can do all the analysis you like, but you don’t do analysis for the sake of it. You do analysis in order to inform your selection of risk controls. And we are required to use a hierarchy of control measures, and that’s a legal requirement in Australia. It’s also a requirement in other jurisdictions and in other many other standards – safety standards that you’ll see it just may not be called this. But it will talk about more and less effective controls.

At the top of the control hierarchy, we’ve got the most effective control which is to eliminate the risk entirely. And by that, I mean you get rid of it. Let’s say you’re working in an explosive atmosphere and you’ve decided you don’t want any electrical devices in that explosive atmosphere. So, if you need to have power for machinery, you’re going to do it with pneumatics, let’s say, or hydraulics. So, you’ve eliminated the electrical risk. Elimination does not mean massaging the probability figures to get them very low and then you have eliminated the risk you have not. You’ve just played games with probability figures. So first off, that’s what elimination really means.

The second level, you’ve got three choices. We can substitute something hazardous with a safer alternative. I’ve mentioned getting rid of electricity entirely. You could say, ‘Well, I’ve got hydraulics, but they can burst and cause damage so I’ll have something else. Or let’s say there was a particular lubricant, which is ideal, but actually it’s quite dangerous this lubricant, so we’ll pick something safer. Maybe it doesn’t perform quite as well. Or a refrigerant, let’s say, an ideal refrigerant might be a potent greenhouse gas so we go ‘We’re going to have something else instead’.

You can isolate the hazard from people – I’ve spoken about that before. Some industries you’ve got a lot of real estate to play with. You can keep the hazard away from people. Or you can reduce the risk through engineering controls. And by engineering controls, I mean, you can build a safety feature or an interlock or something physically into the product. You’re not relying on a person to avoid the risk. It’s been done for them. It’s automatic or built-in.

At third level, we can use admin controls. So we can give people procedures and rules and we can say, ‘Do this, don’t do that’. And most of the time they’ll probably do it and obey the rules, but sometimes they won’t. And sometimes for good reason, by the way, because people come up with ridiculous rules that can’t be obeyed or that make the task or the job so difficult that people break the rules all the time because that’s the only way to get the job done effectively. So, do be aware of putting silly controls onto people because they won’t get obeyed. It’s your responsibility to consult the workers and come up with something practical.

And then finally, we can use personal protective equipment. Now that doesn’t do anything to the probability of the accident, but it reduces the severity. So, for example, if I’m wearing a hard hat, something falls on my head. It reduces the severity of the accident. If I’m wearing protective goggles and there’s a spark or a piece of debris flies out of the machine. If I’m wearing the goggles, it just bounces off probably and saves my eyes. So, there’s a couple of really good examples of where the PPE will help us. And of course, in this season of COVID, we’ve all got PPE bonkers. It’s become headline news all over the world. So, we all now know what PPE is, which is great. Well, and it’s not great. It’s terrible, but it’s good for knowledge.

So, we have to work through that hierarchy in that order. We have to see whether it’s feasible to eliminate the risk to start at the top with the most effective controls and work our way down. We have to do that. And the subject of another chat, another lesson, we have to apply all reasonably practical controls in order to say that we have eliminated or minimized risks SFARP. So far as is reasonably practicable. So, we’ve got to apply all reasonably practical controls. I’ll explain exactly what that means in a separate session.

Aside: Control Effectiveness

A Quick aside: are controls effective? I’ve sort of hinted at this before about the admin stuff. How do we get effective controls? Well, the CoP says we need people to be accountable for health and safety. We need maintenance of plant and equipment. We need up to date training and competency for our people. We need up to date hazard information – that’s a duty in its own right. And we need regular review and consultation. And you’ll find out about that in the CC&C CoP in my next lesson.

Now, these things are required everywhere, they can be achieved informally. If you work in a high-risk industry, you’ll probably have a thing called a safety management system. And your safety management system will be documented in a safety management plan. And typically, the safety management system is the thing that delivers all of these things, all five of these things and much more. So, that’s what you’ll probably end up doing.

First thing to say on that, of course, is that this information has got to be generated. You’ve got to get it from source and it’s usually the designer, the manufacturer, and the installer, and the testers who can provide this information. So, do make sure that you are imposing requirements on your suppliers, on your subcontractors to do this stuff and to provide you with the information. It is their duty to do so. It’s a legal duty, but you’re probably still going to have to pay for it and say when you want it and in what format that’s most useful to you and all the other good stuff.

Step 4, Reviewing Controls

Step four, which is maybe not so obvious. We’ve got some controls, we’re up and running, we need to review those controls. Well, why would we review them? First of all, if you’ve discovered that the control measure is not effective. So, you might have had some incident data., you might’ve had some near misses. Or you might have some reliability data that says ‘My control isn’t as reliable as I thought it was going to be’. But of course, to be aware of that, you’ve got to be collecting this information and you’ve got to be on the lookout for it.

So, you do need a workable incident reporting system and you do need to encourage people to use it and use it either anonymously or honestly. So, that’s where a good safety culture comes in, where you do not punish people for telling the truth. Where you encourage and reward them for the reporting stuff and making things better, you champion. And that’s where management commitment comes in.

The other point where the guidance says you have to do it is if you’re making any kind of change that’s likely to alter or give rise to new risks and you suspect that the existing control measures may not be effective. So, you’re going to make some kind of change – you’ve got to review what you’re doing. But of course, how would the PCBU know that unless they’d actually sort of basically documented the baseline situation? So, you’ve got to have some kind of control over your workplace or over your product or functionality to know what your current situation is and to know that a change is coming. You’ve got to have some kind of baseline control and change control to be able to do that. As I say, it doesn’t have to be that complicated, you just control what goes on at the workplace.

You’ve got to do it if you’ve identified a new hazard or risk. Once you’ve identified something, you’ve got to kind of start from scratch. But that’s okay because hopefully, you’ve already got all of the background analysis that you’ve done. So, you know what you’ve done in the past and therefore you can spot what the delta is. I’m anticipating the record-keeping, but this is where good record keeping really helps you when it comes to managing change. Because if you’ve documented the baseline and understand it, change is relatively straightforward.

Another reason, maybe you’ve consulted with workers or health and safety representatives and you’ve discovered those consultations suggest that a review is necessary. Or maybe a health and safety representative requests a review. In that case, you need to do one.

So those are the five cases where you must conduct a review of controls in order to keep things safe. And very often that’s how accidents occur. We start pretty well and then over a period of time, maybe years or decades, slowly our performance degrades over time or we get a bit blasé about stuff because we’ve never had a problem or so we think. If you’ve got poor incident and near-miss reporting, you won’t be aware of the problems that are happening. So, things slide over time so maybe it’s a good idea to have a periodic review even if you haven’t had any of these triggers. So, that’s a good idea as well. I don’t think it’s in the Code of Practice, but it’s sensible.

Keeping Records

Those are the four steps. Now let’s talk about these three other things, the first of which is keeping records. As it says, keeping records demonstrates what you have done. So, if you have a problem and the regulator comes round to inspect you or maybe even consider shutting you down or issuing a notice to improve or prohibition, then the fact that you’ve got some documentation is going to help you. And also helps you with downstream risk management activities, as I’ve just said.

Then also, there are some specific recordkeeping requirements for particular hazards. So, if you’re exposing people to noise or certain chemicals that may accumulate in the body, then you’re almost certainly going to have to have a monitoring program and a tracking program to keep an eye on this stuff and monitor people’s exposure. So, if you if you’ve got those particular hazards, then there’s going to be some very specific requirements on you that you have to meet and you must keep the records for the time periods required. In general, I would advise keeping the records for at least the life of the system, equipment service, whatever it is, and then a few years afterwards. Just in case there’s an issue that emerges later on. Exactly what you do is up to you.

And from a pragmatic point of view, I would say from experience precision and clarity in record-keeping is so important. Work hard on precision. It might sound like you’re being a bit anal about the way you record stuff if you feel you’re overdoing it, believe me, you are not. Make it simple. Make it crystal clear what you mean. Be very specific and precise as you can and then your records will be a lot more use. I put my hand up and say I’ve written stuff down and then a couple of years or even a few months later, I’ve gone back to something I’ve written down and thought, ‘What did I mean by that?’ Ambiguity is very easy to achieve so write some stuff down. Get somebody else to independently look at it for you and say’ What do you understand that to mean?’ Because English, unfortunately, is a very ambiguous language, very flexible.

Appendices

So, going back to the CoP, in particular, there are four appendices to the CoP. First of all, in A there’s a glossary of terms, which is very useful. Appendix B, we got some examples of a risk management process. Appendix C, there’s some help and guidance on assessing how things can go wrong. And then in Appendix D, there is a sample format blank risk register for you to use if you haven’t got anything else. And all of these examples and appendices, they are simple. They are workplace focused. As I say, if you work in a high-risk domain, maritime, aviation, you work with flammable chemicals or a big industrial plant, the CoP is not going to be sophisticated enough for your use. You’re going to have to meet and exceed it but you’re probably going to be using a standard that requires far more than what the CoP asks for. And that’s okay.

Detailed Requirements

But looking at it the other way around, the CoP is where everybody needs to start and there are some detailed requirements in each Code of Practice. And in this one, the words ‘must’, ‘requires’ or ‘mandatory’ tell you that there is a legal requirement that must be complied with. There are 35 ‘musts’, 39 ‘required’ of various kinds, and three instances are ‘mandatory’ in this Code of Practice. So, you’ve got to obey them.

Then there’s the word ‘should’, which indicates a recommended course of action and ‘may’ is an option. There are 43 ‘shoulds’ in this document and 82 ‘mays’. Again, my advice would be if it’s a ‘should’, I would do it unless you’ve got a reason not to. In which case you should probably write down why you’re not doing it. And that’s perfectly okay. If it isn’t going to work in your circumstances, or you don’t think it’s reasonable to do something, or you’ve got another way of doing it, which is better. Great. Do that, write it down.

And then the ‘mays’ are options so if you think they’re going to be useful and helpful, do it. If not, you don’t have to. There’re the different levels of compliance that you’ve got in the Code of Practice. And those three levels are in all the Codes of Practice.

Commentary

So, I’ve gone through what’s in the Code of Practice, I’m just going to give you a brief resumé of what I think is good advice based on personal and practical experience. I’ve said it already, but a quick reminder, Code of Practice provide minimum requirements. So, you do need to start with CoP and probably as the risk gets higher in whatever industry you’re in, you need to do more with higher-risk or to manage higher-risk.

It does have a workplace focus, so it isn’t a lot to use if you’re a designer and you’re trying to work out ‘What safety margins do I need? I need to do a design trade-off’. I know I’ve sort of leaked into the final point. The CoP won’t help you do that. You’ll need a more sophisticated approach, probably based on standards and tolerability. So, the CoP won’t help you with this sophisticated design decisions and trade-offs, and how much margin is enough. You’re probably going to have to go to standards and industry good practice for that.

And, really, what we’re now talking about is, are the risks are SFARP. Have we done everything that’s reasonably practicable? So first of all, have we done enough? Look at the definition of reasonably practicable, which is in Section 18 of the WHS Act. And if you look at that definition, you’ll find that it is a risk assessment process. So, by following the risk management CoP, the risk assessment process, you will have inherently begun to address SFARP. And you need to do that to demonstrate that you reduce risks SFARP. Then deciding how much is enough, well that depends on the particular risk. A simple approach may suffice and for most instances, for some risks can have to do some more sophisticated work. Which will take you beyond the bounds of the CoP.

And then the last point I’m going to make is the Codes of Practice, not just this one but all of them will repay careful reading. There are some detailed requirements in there and they contain lots of good, sensible, pragmatic advice. And if you have to write a safety management plan or a hazard management plan, then do go to CoP and steal the wording. Don’t make stuff up when you don’t have to. If the CoP tells you what to do and that’s part of your solution just copy and paste it. Use it – you’re allowed to!

Do pay attention to the copyright where you go to do make sure you get the right version of CoP for your jurisdiction. So, if it’s a federal workplace you need the Commonwealth version of CoP. If it’s commercial, then you probably state and territory. So, go to the correct regulator’s website, find the right CoP. You will probably find that the copyright allows you to copy and paste absolutely everything out of the CoP. So, do that and save yourself some work. And also, if you’ve done that it’s very easy to demonstrate that you’ve met the requirements of CoP because you’ve copied them. What could be easier? Save yourself some hassle.

As a consultant, I never make up anything unless I can’t possibly avoid it. So, do use the stuff out there because CoP has been developed for you by a bunch of people in consultation. Lots of people have put a lot of hard work into coming up with a good CoP, which is authorised by the relevant government minister. So, use it, don’t ignore it. It’s there to help you.

Copyright & Attribution

Now, I’ve mentioned that you can dig this stuff out of the right website, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. So, any words that you see in italics, in speech marks, I have lifted from the Federal Register of legislation and I’m allowed to do so under the terms of the Creative Commons license. And as part of the terms of that license, I’m required to tell you that I got this stuff on the 15th of August 2020. But you should always go to the www.legislation.gov.au website to check that you’re using the latest version. Don’t rely on what I’ve said, go and check you using the latest version. And for more information on what you can and can’t do with this Creative Commons license, I’ve got a page at the Safety Artisan that sets out what my obligations are and you’ll be able to see that I’ve met them.

For More…

And then for more information, if you’d like to get free video lessons on safety and free previews of paid content, do please go look at the Safety Artisan channel on YouTube and hit that subscribe- Yes, please! And you will then be informed of whenever a new video comes out which you believe you will find very helpful. And then for all lessons and resources, you can go to www.safetyartisan.com. And as you can see, it’s a secure website, so you’re safe to browse there. Go and have a look at the stuff that’s on there. This lesson is there, as are many others.

End

So that’s the end of our lesson for today, and we’ve gone on for almost 40 minutes. That’s because there’s a lot of good stuff out there to talk about. So just remains me to say thanks very much for tuning in and bothering to listen to this. Thank you for supporting the Safety Artisan. Your subscription, your money, enables me to carry on doing this stuff, and I hope you and many others will find it helpful. So, thanks very much. Bye-bye.

End: Risk Management Code of Practice

You can find the Model Code of Practice here.  Back to the Topics Page.

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Start Here Work Health and Safety

Introduction to WHS Codes of Practice

In the 30-minute session, we introduce Australian WHS Codes of Practice (CoP). We cover: What they are and how to use them; their Limitations; we List (Federal) codes; provide Further commentary; and Where to get more information. This session is a useful prerequisite to all the other sessions on CoP.

Codes of Practice: Topics

  • What they are and how to use them;
  • Limitations;
  • List of CoP (Federal);
  • Further commentary; and
  • Where to get more information.

Codes of Practice: Transcript

Click Here for the Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Safety Artisan, where you will find professional, pragmatic, and impartial teaching and resources on all thing’s safety. I’m Simon and today is the 16th of August 2020. Welcome to the show.

Introduction

So, today we’re going to be talking about Codes of Practice. In fact, we’re going to be introducing Codes of Practice and the whole concept of what they are and what they do.

Topics for this Session

What we’re going to cover is what Codes of Practice are and how to use them – several slides on that; a brief word on their limitations; a list of federal codes of practice – and I’ll explain why I’m emphasizing it’s the list of federal ones; some further commentary and where to get more information. So, all useful stuff I hope.

CoP are Guidance

So, Codes of Practice come in the work, health and safety hierarchy below the act and regulations. So, at the top you’ve got the WHS Act, then you’ve got the WTS regulations, which the act calls up. And then you’ve got the Codes of Practice, which also the act calls up. We’ll see that in a moment. And what Codes of Practice do are they provide practical guidance on how to achieve the standards of work, health and safety required under the WHS act and regulations, and some effective ways to identify and manage risks. So, they’re guidance but as we’ll see in a moment, they’re much more than guidance. So, as I said, the Codes of Practice are called up by the act and they’re approved and signed off by the relevant minister. So, they are a legislative instrument.

Now, a quick footnote. These words, by the way, are in the introduction to every Code of Practice. There’s a little note here that says we’re required to consider all risks associated with work, not just for those risks that have associated codes of practice. So, we can’t hide behind that. We’ve got to think about everything. There are codes of practice for several things, but not everything. Not by a long way.

…Guidance We Should Follow

Now, there are three reasons why Codes of Practice are a bit more than just guidance. So, first of all, they are admissible in court proceedings. Secondly, they are evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk, risk assessment, risk control. And thirdly, courts may rely, or regulators may rely, on Codes of Practice to determine what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances to which the code applies. So, what’s the significance of that?

So first of all, the issue about being admissible. If you’re unfortunate enough to go to court and be accused of failing under WHS law, then you will be able to appeal to a Code of Practice in your defence and say, “I complied with the Code of Practice”. They are admissible in court proceedings. However, beyond that, all bets are off. It’s the court that decides what is anadmissible defence, and that means lawyers decide, not engineers. Now, given that you’re in court and the incident has already happened a lot of the engineering stuff that we do about predicting the probability of things is no longer relevant. The accident has happened. Somebody has got hurt. All these probability arguments are dust in your in the wake of the accident. So, Codes of Practice are a reliable defence.

Secondly, the bit about evidence of what is known is significant, because when we’re talking about what is reasonably practicable, the definition of reasonably practicable in Section 18 of the WHS act talks about what it is reasonable or what should have been known when people were anticipating the risk and managing it. Now, given that Codes of Practice were published back in 2012, there’s no excuse for not having read them. So, they’re pre –existing, they’re clearly relevant, the law has said that they’re admissible in court. We should have read them, and we should have acted upon them. And there’ll be no wriggling out of that. So, if we haven’t done something that CoP guided us to do, we’re going to look very vulnerable in court.  Or in the whatever court of judgment we’re up against, whether it be public opinion or trial by media or whatever it is.

And thirdly, some CoP can be used to help determine what is SOFARP. So in some circumstances, if you’re dealing with a risk that’s described a CoP, CoP is applicable. Then if you followed everything in CoP, then you might be able to claim that just doing that means that you’ve managed the risk SFARP. Why is that important? Because the only way we are legally allowed to expose people to risk is if we have eliminated or minimized that risk so far as is reasonably practicable, SFARP. That is the key test, the acid test, of “Have we met our risk management obligations? “And CoP are useful, maybe crucial, in two different ways for determining what is SFARP. So yes, they’re guidance but it’s guidance that we ignore at our peril.

Standards & Good Practice

So, moving on. Codes of Practice recognize, and I reemphasize this is in the introduction to every code of practice, they’re not the only way of doing things. There isn’t a CoP for everything under the sun. So, codes recognize that you can achieve compliance with WHS obligations by using another method as long as it provides an equivalent or higher standard of work, health and safety than the code. It’s important to recognize that Codes of Practice are basic. They apply to every business and undertaking in Australia potentially. So, if you’re doing something more sophisticated, then probably CoP on their own are not enough. They’re not good enough.

And in my day job as a consultant, that’s the kind of stuff we do. We do planes, trains and automobiles. We do ships and submarines. We do nuclear. We do infrastructure. We do all kinds of complex stuff for which there are standards and recognized good practice which go way beyond the requirements of basic Codes of Practice. And many I would say, probably most, technical and industry safety standards and practices are more demanding than Codes of Practice. So, if you’re following an industry or technical standard that says “Here’s a risk management process”, then it’s likely that that will be far more detailed than the requirements that are in Codes of Practice.

And just a little note to say that for those of us who love numbers and quantitative safety analysis, what this statement about equivalent or higher standards of health and safety is talking about  –We want requirements that are more demanding and more rigorous or more detailed than CoP. Not that the end –result in the predicted probability of something happening is better than what you would get with CoP because nobody knows what you would get with CoP. That calculation hasn’t been done. So, don’t go down the rabbit hole of thinking “I’ve got a quantitatively demonstrate that what we’re doing is better than CoP.” You haven’t. It’s all about demonstrating the input requirements are more demanding rather than the output because that’s never been done for CoP. So, you’ve got no benchmark to measure against in output terms.

The primacy of WHS & Regulations

A quick point to note that Codes of Practice, they are only guidance. They do refer to relevant WHS act and regulations, the hard obligations, and we should not be relying solely on codes in place of what it says in the WHS Act or the regulations. So, we need to remember that codes are not a substitute for the act or the regs. Rather they are a useful introduction. WHS ACT and regulations are actually surprisingly clear and easy to read. But even so, there are 600 regulations. There are hundreds of sections of the WHS act. It’s a big read and not all of it is going to be relevant to every business, by a long way. So, if you see a CoP that clearly applies to something that you’re doing, start with the cop. It will lead you into the relevant parts of WHS act and regulations. If you don’t know them, have a read around in there around the stuff that – you’ve been given the pointer in the CoP, follow it up.

But also, CoP do represent a minimum level of knowledge that you should have. Again, start with CoP, don’t stop with them. So, go on a bit. Look at the authoritative information in the act and the regs and then see if there’s anything else that you need to do or need to consider. The CoP will get you started.

And then finally, it’s a reference for determining SOFARP. You won’t see anything other than the definition of reasonably practicable in the Act. You won’t see any practical guidance in the Act or the regulations on how to achieve SOFARP. Whereas CoP does give you a narrative that you can follow and understand and maybe even paraphrase if you need to in some safety documentation. So, they are useful for that. There’s also guidance on reasonably practicable, but we’ll come to that at the end.

Detailed Requirements

It’s worth mentioning that there are some detailed requirements in codes. Now, when I did this, I think I was looking at the risk management Code of Practice, which will go through later in another session. But in this example, there are this many requirements. So, every CoP has the statement “The words ‘must’, ‘requires’, or ‘mandatory’ indicate a legal requirement exists that must be complied with.” So, if you see ‘must’, ‘requires’, or ‘mandatory’, you’ve got to do it. And in this example CoP that I was looking at, there are 35 ‘must’s, 39 ‘required’ or ‘requirement’ – that kind of wording – and three instances of ‘mandatory’. Now, bearing in mind the sentence that introduces those things contains two instances of ‘must’ and one of ‘requires’ and one of ‘mandatory’. So, straight away you can ignore those four instances. But clearly, there are lots of instances here of ‘must’ and ‘require’ and a couple of ‘mandatory’.

Then we’ve got the word ‘should’ is used in this code to indicate a recommended course of action, while ‘may’ is used to indicate an optional course of action. So, the way I would suggest interpreting that and this is just my personal opinion – I have never seen any good guidance on this. If it says ‘recommended’, then personally I would do it unless I can justify there’s a good reason for not doing it. And if it said ‘optional’, then I would consider it. But I might discard it if I felt it wasn’t helpful or I felt there was a better way to do it. So, that would be my personal interpretation of how to approach those words. So, ‘recommended’ – do it unless you can justify not doing it. ‘Optional’ – Consider it, but you don’t have to do it.

And in this particular one, we’ve got 43 instances of ‘should’ and 82 of ‘may’. So, there’s a lot of detailed information in each CoP in order to consider. So, read them carefully and comply with them where you have to work and that will repay you. So, a positive way to look at it, CoP are there to help you. They’re there to make life easy for you. Read them, follow them. The negative way to look at them is, ”I don’t need to do all this says in CoP because it’s only guidance”. You can have that attitude if you want. If you’re in the dock or in the witness box in court, that’s not going to be a good look. Let’s move on.

Limitations of CoP

So, I’ve talked CoP up quite a lot; as you can tell, I’m a fan because I like anything that helps us do the job, but they do have limitations. I’ve said before that there’s a limited number of them and they’re pretty basic. First of all, it’s worth noting that there are two really generic Codes of Practice. First of all, there’s the one on risk management. And then secondly, there’s the one on communication, consultation and cooperation. And I’ll be doing sessions on both of those. Now, those apply to pretty much everything we do in the safety world. So, it’s essential that you read them no matter what you’re doing and comply with them where you have to.

Then there are other codes of practice that apply to specific activities or hazards, and some of them are very, very specific, like getting rid of asbestos, or welding, or spray painting – or whatever it might be – shock blasting. Those have clearly got a very narrow focus. So, you will know if you’re doing that stuff. So, if you are doing welding and clearly you need to read the welding CoP. If welding isn’t part of your business or undertaking, you can forget it.

However, overall, there are less than 25 Codes of Practice. I can’t be more precise for reasons that we will come to in a moment. So, there’s a relatively small number of CoP and they don’t cover complex things. They’re not going to help you design a super –duper widget or some software or anything like that. It’s not going to help you do anything complicated. Also, Codes of Practice tend to focus on the workplace, which is understandable. They’re not much help when it comes to design trade –offs. They’re great for the sort of foundational stuff. Yes, we have to do all of this stuff regardless. When you get to questions of, “How much is enough?” Sometimes in safety, we say, “How much margin do I need?” “How many layers of protection do I need?” “Have I done enough?” CoP aren’t going to be a lot of use helping you with that kind of determination but you do need to have made sure you’ve done everything CoP first and then start thinking about those trade –offs, would be my advice. You’re less likely to go wrong that way. So, start with your firm basis of what you have to do to comply and then think “What else could I do?”

List of CoP (Federal) #1

Now for information, you’ve got three slides here where we’ve got a list of the Codes of Practice that apply at the federal or Commonwealth level of government in Australia. So, at the top highlighted I’ve already mentioned the ‘how’ to manage WHS risks and the consultation, cooperation, and coordination codes. Then we get into stuff like abrasive, blasting, confined spaces, construction and demolition and excavation, first aid. So, quite a range of stuff, covered.

List of CoP (Federal) #2

Hazardous manual tasks – so basically human beings carrying and moving stuff. Managing and controlling asbestos, and removing it. Then we’ve got a couple on hazardous chemicals on this page, electrical risks, managing noise, preventing hearing loss, and stevedoring. There you go. So, if you’re into stevedoring, then this CoP is for you. The highlighted ones we’re going to cover in later sessions.

List of CoP (Federal) #3

Then we’ve got managing risk of Plant in the workplace. There was going to be a Code of Practice for the design of Plant, but that never saw the light of day so we’ve only got guidance on that. We’ve got falls, environment, work environment, and facilities. We’ve got another one on safety data sheets for another one on hazardous chemicals, preventing falls in housing – I guess because that’s very common accident – safe design of structures, spray painting and powder coating, and welding processes. So, those are the list of – I think it’s 24 – Codes of Practice are applied by Comcare, the federal regulator.

Commentary #1

Now, I’m being explicit about which regulator and which set of CoP, because they vary around Australia. Basically, the background was the model Codes of Practice were developed by Safe Work Australia, which is a national body. But those model Codes of Practice do not apply. Safe Work Australia is not a regulator. Codes of Practice are implemented or enforced by the federal government and by most states and territories. And it says with variations for a reason. Not all states and territories impose all codes of practice. For example, I live in South Australia and if you go and look at the WorkSafe South Australia website or Safe Work – whatever it’s called – you will see that there’s a couple of CoP that for some reason we don’t enforce in South Australia. Why? I do not know. But you do need to think about these things depending on where you’re operating.

It’s also worth saying that WHS is not implemented in every state in Australia. Western Australia currently have plans to implement WHS, but as of 2020 but I don’t believe they’ve done so yet. Hopefully, it’s coming soon. And Victoria, for some unknown reason, have decided they’re just not going to play ball with everybody else. They’ve got no plans to implement WHS that I can find online. They’re still using their old OHS legislation. It’s not a universal picture in Australia, thanks to our rather silly version of government that we have here in Australia – forget I said that. So, if it’s a Commonwealth workplace and we apply the federal version of WHS and Codes of Practice. Otherwise, we use state or territory versions and you need to see the local regulator’s Web page to find out what is applied where. And the definition of a Commonwealth workplace is in the WHS Act, but also go and have a look at the Comcare website to see who Comcare police. Because there are some nationalised industries that count as a Commonwealth workplace and it can get a bit messy.

So, sometimes you may have to ask for advice from the regulator but go and see what they say. Don’t rely on what consultants say or what you’ve heard on the grapevine. Go and see what the regulator actually says and make sure it’s the right regulator for where you’re operating.

Commentary #2

What’s to come? I’m going to do a session on the Risk Management Code of Practice, and I’m also, associated with that, going to do a session on the guidance on what is reasonably practicable. Now that’s guidance, it’s not a Code of Practice. But again, it’s been published so we need to be aware of it and it’s also very simple and very helpful. I would strongly recommend looking at that guidance if you’re struggling with SFARP for what it means, it’s very good. I’ll be talking about that soon. Also, I’m going to do a session on tolerability of risk, because you remember when I said “CoP aren’t much good for helping you do trade–offs in design” and that kind of thing. They’re really only good for simple stuff and compliance. Well, what you need to understand to deal with the more sophisticated problems is the concept of tolerability of risk. That’ll help us do those things. So, I’m going to do a session on that.

I’m also going to do a session on consultation, cooperation, and coordination, because, as I said before, that’s universally applicable. If we’re doing anything at a workplace, or with stuff that’s going to a workplace, that we need to be aware of what’s in that code. And then I’m also going to do sessions on plant, structures and substances (or hazardous chemicals) because those are the absolute bread and butter of the WHS Act. If you look at the duties of designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers, and installers, et cetera, you will find requirements on plant, substances and structures all the way through those clauses in the WHS Act. Those three things are key so we’re going to be talking about that.

Now, I mentioned before that there was going to be a Code of Practice on plant design, but it never made it. It’s just guidance. So, we’ll have a look at that if we can as well – Copyright permitting. And then I want to look at electrical risks because I think the electrical risks code is very useful. Both for electrical risks, but it’s also a useful teaching vehicle for designers and manufacturers to understand their obligations, especially if you operate abroad and you want to know, or if you’re importing stuff “Well, how do I know that my kit can be safely used in Australia?” So, if you can’t do the things that the electrical risk CoP requires in the workplace if your piece of kit won’t support that, then it’s going to be difficult for your customers to comply. So, probably there’s a hint there that if you want to sell your stuff successfully, here’s what you need to be aware of. And then that applies not just to electrical, I think it’s a good vehicle for understanding how CoP can help us with our upstream obligations, even though CoP applies to a workplace. That session will really be about the imaginative use of Code of Practice in order to help designers and manufacturers, etc.

And then I want to also talk about noise Code of Practice, because noise brings in the concept of exposure standards. Now, generally, Codes of Practice don’t quote many standards. They’re certainly not mandatory, but noise is one of those areas where you have to have standards to say, “this is how we’re going to measure the noise”. This is the exposure standard. So, you’re not allowed to expose people to more than this. That brings in some very important concepts about health monitoring and exposure to certain things. Again, it’ll be useful if you’re managing noise but I think that session will be useful to anybody who wants to understand how exposure standards work and the requirements for monitoring exposure of workers to certain things. Not just noise, but chemicals as well. We will be covering a lot of that in the session(s) on HAZCHEM.

Copyright & Attribution

I just want to mention that everything in quotes/in italics is downloaded from the Federal Register of Legislation, and I’ve gone to the federal legislation because I’m allowed to reproduce it under the license, under which it’s published. So, the middle paragraph there – I’m required to point that out that I sourced it from the Federal Register of legislation, the website on that date. And for the latest information, you should always go to the website to double–check that the version that you’re looking at is still in force and is still relevant. And then for more information on the terms of the license, you can go and see my page at the www.SafetyArtisan.com because I go through everything that’s required and you can check for yourself in detail.

For More…

Also, on the website, there’s a lot more lessons and resources, some of them free, some of them you have to pay to access, but they’re all there at www.safetyartisan.com. Also, there’s the Safety Artisan page at www.patreon.com/SafetyArtisan where you will see the paid videos. And also, I’ve got a channel on YouTube where the free videos are all there. So, please go to the Safety Artisan channel on YouTube and subscribe and you will automatically get a notification when a new free video pops up.

End

And that brings me to the end of the presentation, so thanks very much for listening. I’m just going to stop sharing that now. It just remains for me to say thank you very much for tuning in and I look forward to sharing some more useful information on Codes of Practice with you in the next session in about a month’s time. Cheers now, everybody. Goodbye.

There’s more!

You can find the Model WHS Codes of Practice here. Back to the Topics Page.

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Start Here Work Health and Safety

Lessons Learned from a Fatal Accident

Lessons Learned: in this 30-minute video, we learn lessons from an accident in 2016 that killed four people on the Thunder River Rapids Ride in Queensland. The coroner’s report was issued this year, and we go through the summary of that report. In it we find failings in WHS Duties, Due Diligence, risk management, and failures to eliminate or minimize risks So Far As is Reasonably Practicable (SFARP). We do not ‘name and shame’, rather we focus on where we can find guidance to do better.

In 2016, four people died on the Thunder River Rapids Ride.

Lessons Learned: Key Points

We examine multiple failings in:

  • WHS Duties;
  • WHS Due Diligence;
  • Risk management; and
  • Eliminating or minimizing risks So Far As is Reasonably Practicable (SFARP).

Transcript: Lessons Learned from a Theme Park Tragedy

Click here for the Video Transcript

Introduction

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Safety Artisan: purveyors of fine safety engineering training videos and other resources. I’m Simon and I’m your host and today we’re going to be doing something slightly different. So, there’re no PowerPoint slides. Instead, I’m going to be reading from a coroner’s report from a well-known accident here in Australia and we’re going to be learning some lessons in the context of WHS workplace health and safety law.

Disclaimer

Now, I’d just like to reassure you before we start that I won’t be mentioning the names of the deceased. I won’t be sharing any images of them. And I’m not even going to mention the firm that owned the theme park because this is not about bashing people when they’re down. It’s about us as a community learning lessons when things go wrong in order to fix the problem, not the blame. So that’s what I’d like to emphasize here.

The Coroner’s Report

So, I’m just turning to the summary of the coroner’s report. Basically, the coroner was examining the deaths of four people back in 2016 on what was called the Thunder River Rapids Ride. Or TRRR or TR3 for short because it’s a bit of a mouthful. This was a water ride, as the name implies, and what went wrong was the water level dropped. Rafts, these circular rafts that went down the rapids, went down the chute, got stuck. Another raft came up behind the stuck raft and went into it. One of the rafts tipped over.

These rafts seat six people in a circular configuration. You may have seen them. They’re in – different versions of this ride are in lots of theme parks.

But out of the six, unfortunately, the only two escaped and four people were killed, tragically. So that’s the background. That happened in October 2016, I think it was. The coroner’s report came out a few months ago, and I’ve been wanting to talk about it for some time because it really does illustrate very well a number of issues where WHS can help us do the right thing.

WHS duties

So, first of all, I’m looking at the first paragraph in the summary, the coroner starts off; the design and construction of the TRRR at the conveyor and unload area posed a significant risk to the health and safety of patrons. Notice that the coroner says the design and construction. Most people think that WHS only applies to workplaces and people managing workplaces, but it does a lot more than that. Sections 22 through 26 of the Act talk about the duties of designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and then people who commissioned, install, et cetera.

So, WHS supplies duties on a wide range of businesses and undertakings and designers and constructors are key. Now, it’s worth noting that there was no importer here. The theme park, although the TRRR ride was similar to a ride available commercially elsewhere, for some reason, they chose to design and build their own version in Queensland. Don’t know why. Anyway, that doesn’t really matter now. So, there was no importer, but otherwise, even if you didn’t design and construct the thing, if you imported it, the same duties still apply to you.

No effective risk assessment

So, the coroner then goes on to talk about risks and hazards and says each of these obvious hazards posed a risk to the safety of patrons on the ride and would have been easily identifiable to a competent person had one ever been commissioned to conduct a risk and hazard assessment of the ride. So, what the coroner is saying there is, “No effective risk assessment has been done”. Now, that is clearly contrary to the risk management code of practice under WHS and also, of course, that the definition of SFARP, so far as reasonably practicable, basically is a risk assessment or risk management process. So, if you’ve not done effective risk management, you can’t say that you’ve eliminated or minimized risks SFARP, which is another legal requirement. So, a double whammy there.

Then moving on. “Had noticed been taken of lessons learned from the preceding incidents, which were all of a very similar nature …” and then he goes on. Basically, that’s the back end of a sentence where he says, you didn’t do this, you had incidents on the ride, which are very similar in the past, and you didn’t learn from them. And again, with respect to reducing risks SFARP, Section 18 in the WHS Act, which talks about the definition of reasonably practicable, which is the core of SFARP, talks about what ought to have been known at the time. So, when you’re doing a risk assessment or maybe you’re reassessing risk after a modification and this ride was heavily modified several times or after an incident, you need to take account of the available information. And the owners of TRRR the operators clearly didn’t do that. So, another big failing.

The coroner goes on to note that records available with respect to the modifications to the ride are scant and ad hoc. And again, there’s a section in the WHS risk management code of practice about keeping records. It’s not that onerous. I mean, the COP is pretty simple but they didn’t meet the requirement of the code of practice. So, bad news again.

due diligence

And then finally, I’ve got to the bottom of page one. So, the coroner then notes the maintenance tasks undertaken on the ride whilst done so regularly and diligently by the staff, seemed to have been based upon historical checklists which were rarely reviewed despite the age of the device or changes to the applicable Australian standards.

Now, this is interesting. So, this is contravening a different section of the WHS Act. In Section 27, it talks about the duties of officers and effectively that sort of company directors, senior managers. Officers are supposed to exercise due diligence. In the act, due diligence is fairly simple- It’s six bullet points, but one of them is that the officers have to sort of keep up to date on what’s going on in their operation. They have to provide up to date and effective safety information for their staff. They’re also supposed to keep up with what’s going on in safety regulation that’s applicable to their operation. So, I reckon in that one statement from the coroner then there’s probably three breaches of due diligence there to start with.

risk controls lacking

We’ve reached the bottom of page one- Let’s carry on. The coroner then goes on to talk about risk controls that were or were not present and says, “in accordance with the hierarchy of controls, plant and engineering measures should have been considered as solutions to identified hazards”. So in WHS regulations and it’s repeated in the risk code of practice, there’s a thing called the hierarchy of controls. Basically, it says that some types of risk controls are more effective than others and therefore they come at the top of the list, whereas others are less effective and should be considered last.

So, top of the list is, “Can you eliminate the hazard?” If not, can you substitute the hazardous thing for something else that’s less hazardous- or with something else that is less hazardous, I should say? Can you put in engineering solutions or controls to control hazard? And then finally, at the bottom of my list is admin procedures for people to follow and then personal protective equipment for workers, for example. We’ll talk about this more later, but the top end of the hierarchy had just not been considered or not effectively anyway.

a predictable risk

So, the coroner then goes on to say, “raft’s coming together on the ride was a well-known risk, highlighted by the incident in 2001 and again in 2004”. Now actually it says 2004, I think that might be a typo. Elsewhere, it says 2014, but certainly, there were two significant incidents that were similar to the accident that actually killed four people. And it was acknowledged that various corrective measures could be undertaken to, quote, “adequately control the risk of raft collision”. However, a number of these suggestions were not implemented on the ride.

Now, given that they’ve demonstrated the ability to kill multiple people on the ride with a raft collision, it’s going to be a very, very difficult thing to justify not implementing controls. So, given the seriousness of the potential risk, to say that a control is feasible is practicable, but then to say “We’re not going to do it. It’s not reasonable”. That’s going to be very, very difficult to argue and I would suggest it’s almost a certainty that not all reasonably practicable controls were implemented, which means the risk is not SFARP, which is a legal requirement.

Further on, we come back to document management, which was poor with no formal risk register in place. So, no evidence of a proper risk assessment. Members of the department did not conduct any holistic risk assessments of rides with the general view that another department was responsible. So, the fact that risk assessment wasn’t done- That’s a failing. The fact that senior management didn’t knock heads together and say “This has to be done. Make it happen”- That’s also another failing. That’s a failing of due diligence, I suspect. So, we’ve got a couple more problems there.

high-risk plant

Then, later on, the coroner talks about necessary engineering oversight of high-risk plant not being done. Now, under WHS act definitions, amusement rides are counted as high-risk plant, presumably because of the number of serious accidents that have happened with them over the years. The managers of the TRRR didn’t meet their obligations with respect to high-risk plants. So, there are some things that are optional for common garden stuff is mandatory for high-risk plants and those obligations were not met it seems.

And then in just the next paragraph, we reinforce this due diligence issue. Only a scant amount of knowledge was held by those in management positions, including the general manager of engineering, as to the design modifications and passed notable incidents on the ride. One of the requirements of due diligence is that senior management must have a knowledge of their operations, a knowledge of the hazards and risks associated with the operations. So for the engineering manager to be ignorant about modifications and risks associated with the ride, I think is a clear failure of due diligence.

Still talking about engineering, the coroner notes “it is significant that the general manager had no knowledge of past incidents involving rafts coming together on the ride”. Again, due diligence. If things have happened those need to be investigated and learned from and then you need to apply fresh controls if that’s required. And again, this is a requirement. So, this shows a lack of due diligence. It’s also a requirement in the risk management code of practice to look at things when new knowledge is gained. So, a couple more failures there.

no water-level detection, alarm or emergency stop

Now, it said that the operators of the ride were well aware that when one pump failed, and there were two, the ride was no longer able to operate with the water level dropping dramatically, stranding the rafts on the steel support railings. And of course, that’s how the accident happened.

Regardless, there was no formal means by which to monitor the water level of the ride or audible alarm to advise one of the pumps had ceased to operate. So, a water level monitor? Well, we’re talking potentially about a float, which is a pretty simple thing. There’s one in every cistern, in every toilet in Australia. Maybe the one for the ride would have to be a bit more sophisticated than that- A bit industrial grade but basically the same principle.

And no alarm to advise the operators that this pump had failed, even though it was known that this would have a serious effect on the operation of the ride. So, there’re multiple problems here. I suspect you’ll be able to find regulations that require these things. Certainly, if you looked at the code of practice on plant design because this counts as industrial plants, it’s a high-risk plant, so you would expect very high standards of engineering controls on high-risk plants and these were missing. More on that later.

In a similar vein, the coroner says “a basic automated detection system for the water level would have been inexpensive and may have prevented the incident from occurring”. So basically, the coroner is saying this control mechanism would have been cheap so it’s certainly reasonably practicable. If you’ve got a cheap control that will prevent a serious injury or a death, then how on earth are you going to argue that it’s not reasonable to implement it? The onus is on us to implement all reasonably practical controls.

And then similarly, the lack of a single emergency stop on the ride, which was capable of initiating a complete shutdown of all the mechanisms, was also inadequate. And that’s another requirement from the code of practice on plant design, which refers back to WHS regulations. So, another breach there.

human factors

We then move on to a section where it talks about operators, operators’ account of the incident, and other human factors. I’m probably going to ask my friend Peter Bender, who is a Human Factors specialist, to come and do a session on this and look at this in some more detail, because there are rich pickings in this section and I’m just going to skim the surface here because we haven’t got time to do more. And the coroner says “it’s clear that these 38 signals and checks to be undertaken by the ride operators were excessive, particularly given that the failure to carry out anyone could potentially be a factor which would contribute to a serious incident”. So clearly, 38 signals and checks distributed between two ride operators, because there was no one operator in control of the whole ride- that’s a human factors nightmare for a start- but clearly, the work designed for the ride was poor. There is good guidance available from Safe Work Australia on good work design so there’s really no excuse for this kind of lapse.

And then the coroner goes on to say, reinforcing this point about the ride couldn’t be safely controlled by a human operator. The lack of engineering controls on a ride of this nature is unjustifiable. Again, reinforcing the point that risk was not SFARP because not all reasonably practicable controls had been implemented. Particularly controls at the higher end of the hierarchy of controls. So, a serious failing there.  

(Now, I’ve got something that I’m going to skip, actually, but – It’s a heck of a comment, but it’s not actually relevant to WHS.)

training and competence

We’re moving on to training and competence. Those responsible for managing the ride whilst following the process and procedure in place – and I’m glad to see you from a human practice point of view that the coroner is not just trying to blame the last person that touched it. He’s making a point of saying the operators did all the right stuff. Nevertheless, they were largely not qualified to perform the work for which they were charged.

The process and procedures that they were following seemed to have been created by unknown persons. Because of the poor record-keeping, presumably who it is safe to assume lacked the necessary expertise. And I think the coroner is making a reasonable assumption there, given the multiple failings that we’ve seen are in risk management, in due diligence, in record-keeping, in the knowledge of key people, et cetera, et cetera.

It seems that the practice at the park was simply to accept what had always been done in terms of policy and procedure. And despite changes to safety standards and practices happening over time, because this is an old ride, only limited and largely reactionary consideration was ever given to making changes, including training, providing to staff. So, reactionary -bad word. We’re supposed to predict risk and prevent harm happening. So, multiple failures on due diligence here and on staff training, providing adequate staff training, providing adequate procedures, et cetera.

The coroner goes on to say, “regardless of the training provided at the park, it would never have been sufficient to overcome the poor design of the ride. The lack of automation and engineering controls”. So, again, the hierarchy of controls was not applied, relatively cheap, engineering controls not used, placing an undue burden on the operator. Sadly, this is all too common and in many applications. This is one of the reasons they are not naming the ride operators or trying to shame them because I’ve seen this happen in so many different places. It wouldn’t be fair to single these people out.

‘incident free’ operations?

Now we have a curious, a curious little statement in paragraph 1040. The coroner says “submissions are made that there was a 30-year history of incident-free operation of the ride”. So, what it looks like is that the ride operators, management, trying to tell the coroner that they never had an incident on the ride in 30 years, which sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it, at face value. But of course, the coroner already knew or discovered later on that there had been incidents on the ride. In fact, there have been two incidents that were very similar to the fatal accident.

Now, on the surface, this looks bad, doesn’t it? It looks like the ride management were trying to mislead the coroner. I don’t actually think that’s the case because I’ve seen that many organizations do poor incident reporting, poor incident recording, and poor learning from experience from incidents that it doesn’t surprise me that the senior management were not aware of incidents on their ride. Unfortunately, it’s partly human nature. Nobody likes to dwell on their failures or think about nasty things happening, and nobody likes to go to the boss saying we need to shut down a moneymaking ride. Don’t forget, this was a very popular ride. We need to shut down a moneymaking ride in order to spend more money-making modifications to make it safer. And then management turns around and say, “Well, nobody’s been hurt. So, what’s the problem?”

And again, I’ve seen this attitude again and again, even on people operating much more sophisticated and much more dangerous equipment than this. So, whilst this really does look bad- the optics are not good, as they like to say. I don’t think there’s actually a conspiracy going on here. I think it’s just stupid mistakes because it’s so common. Moving on.

standards

Now the coroner goes on to talk about standards not being followed, particularly when standards get updated over time. Bearing in mind this ride was 30 years old. The coroner states “it is essential that any difference in these standards are recognized and steps taken to ensure any shortfalls with a device manufactured internationally is managed”. Now, this is a little bit of an aside, because as I’ve mentioned before, the TRRR was actually designed and manufactured in Australia. Albeit not to any standards that we would recognize these days. But most rides were not and this highlights duties of importers. So, if you import something from abroad, you need to make sure that it complies with Australian requirements. That’s a requirement, that’s a duty under WHS law. We’ll come back to this in just a moment.

(We’ll skip that [comment] because we’ve done training and competency to death.)

the role of the regulator

So, following on about the international standards, the coroner also has a crack at the Queensland regulator, who I won’t name, and says “the regulator draws my attention to the difficulties arising when we’re requiring all amusement devices to comply with Australian standards. This difficulty is brought about by the fact that most amusement devices are designed and manufactured overseas, predominantly based on European standards”. Now, in the rest of the report, the coroner has a good old crack at the regulator. (If you’re Irish, a crack means a bit of fun. I’m not talking about a bit of fun.)

The coroner sticks the boot into the regulator for being pretty useless. And sadly, that’s no surprise in Australia. So basically, the regulator said, “Oh, it’s all too difficult!” And you think, “Well, it’s your job, actually, so why haven’t you done it properly?”

But being a little bit more practical, if you work in an industry where a lot of stuff is imported and let’s face it, that’s pretty common in Australia, you’ve got two choices. You can either try and change Australian standards so that they align better to the standards of the kit where you’re getting the stuff from in your industry, or maybe the regulators say could say, “Okay, this is a common problem across the industry. We will provide some guidance that tells you how to make that transition from the international standards to Australian standards and what we as the regulator consider acceptable and not acceptable”. And then that really helps the industry to do the right thing and to be consistent in terms of operation and enforcement.

So, the regulator is letting the people who they regulate know this is the standard that is required of you, this is what you have to do. And that’s really the job of a good regulator. So, the fact that the regulator in this particular case just hadn’t bothered to do so over a period of some decades, it would seem, doesn’t really say a lot for the professionalism of the regulator. And I’m not surprised that the coroners decided to have a go at them.

Summary

So, we’ve been through just over 20 comments, I think. I mean, I actually had 24/25 in total, but I skipped a few because they were a bit repetitive and it’s interesting to note that there were two major comments on failure to conduct designer duties and that kind of thing. Seven on risk management, four on SFARP, although of course, all the risk management ones also affects SFARP, and five on due diligence. So, there’re almost 20 significant breaches there and I wasn’t even really trying to pick up everything the coroner said. And bearing in mind, I was only reading from the summary. I didn’t bother reading the whole report because it’s pages and pages and pages.

And the lesson that we can draw from all of this friends, is not to bash the people who make mistakes, but to learn lessons for ourselves. How could we do better? And I think the lesson is everything that we need to do has been clearly set out in the WHS Act, in the WHS regulations. Then there’re codes of practice that give us guidance in particular areas and our general responsibilities and these codes of practice also guide us on to what could should be considered, SFARP, for certain hazards and risks. Then there’s also some fantastic guidance, documentation and information available from Safe Work Australia. On, for example, human factors and good work design and so on and so forth.

So, there’s lots of really good, really readable information out there and it’s all free. It’s all available on that wonderful thing we call the Internet. So, there really is no excuse for making basic mistakes like this and killing people. It’s not that difficult. And a lot of the safety requirements are not that onerous. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to read them and understand them. A lot of the requirements are basic, structured, common sense. So, the lesson from this awful accident is it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do much better than that quite easily and if we don’t and something goes wrong, then the law will be after us.

looking ahead

It will be interesting to see – I believe that the WorkSafe Queensland are now investigating to see whether they’re going to bring any prosecutions. It should be said that the police investigated and didn’t bring any prosecutions against individuals. I don’t know if Queensland has a corporate manslaughter act. I wouldn’t think so based on the fact that they’ve not prosecuted anybody, but you don’t need to find an individual guilty of gross negligence, manslaughter for four WHS to take effect. So, I suspect that in due course, we will see the operators of the theme park probably cop a significant fine and maybe some of their directors and senior managers will be going to jail. That’s how serious these and how numerous these breaches are. You really don’t need to dig very deep to see what’s gone wrong and to see the legal obligations have not been met.

Since this video was recorded the TRRR owners have been charged with three offences under WHS law. They pleaded guilty and were fined $4.5M.

End of Lessons Learned

Back to the ‘Work Health & Safety‘ and ‘Start Here‘ Topics Pages.

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Work Health and Safety

Guide to the WHS Act

This Guide to the WHS Act covers many topics of interest to system safety and design safety specialists, this full-length video explains the Federal Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act (latest version, as of 14 Nov 2020). Brought to you by The Safety Artisan: professional, pragmatic, and impartial.

This is the four-minute demo of the full, 44-minute-long video.

Recap: In the Short Video…

which is here, we looked at:

  • The Primary Duty of Care; and
  • Duties of Designers.

Topics: Guide to the WHS Act

In this full video we will look at much more…

  • § 3, Object [of the Act];
  • § 4-8, Definitions;
  • § 12A, Exclusions;
  • § 18, Reasonably Practicable;
  • § 19, Primary Duty of Care;
  • § 22-26, Duties of Designers, Manufacturers, Importers, Suppliers & those who Install/Construct/Commission;
  • § 27, Officers & Due Diligence;
  • § 46-49, Consult, Cooperate & Coordinate;
  • § 152, Function of the Regulator; and
  • § 274-276, WHS Regulations and CoP.

Transcript: Guide to the WHS Act

Click here for the Transcript

Hi everyone and welcome to the Safety Artisan where you will find instructional videos like this one with professional, pragmatic and impartial advice which we hope you enjoy. I’m Simon and I’m recording this on the 13th of October 2019. So today we’re going to be talking about the Australian Federal Work Health and Safety Act and call it an unofficial guide or system or design safety practitioners whatever you want to call yourselves because I’m looking at the WHS Act from the point of view of system safety and design safety.

 As opposed to managing the workplace although it does that as well. Few days ago, I recorded a short video version of this and in the short video we looked at the primary duty of care and the duty particularly we look at the duty of designs. And so, we spent some time looking at that and that video is available on the freight on petrol on the safety artisan page at Patreon.com. It’s available at safetyartisan.com and you can watch it on YouTube. So just search for safety artisan on YouTube.

Topics

So, in this video, we’re going to look at much more than that. I say selected topics we’re not going to look at everything in the WHS Act as you can see there are several hundred sections of it. We’ll be here all day. So, what we’re going to look at are things that are relevant to systems safety to design safety. So, we look very briefly at the object of the act, at what it’s trying to achieve. Just one slight of definitions because there’s a lot of exclusions because the Act doesn’t apply to everything in Australia.

 We’re going to look at the Big Three involved. So really the three principles that will help us understand what the act is trying to achieve is:

  • what is reasonably practicable. That phrase that I’ve used several times before.
  • What is the primary duty of care so that sections 18 and 19. And if we jump to
  • Section 27 What are or who are officers and what does due diligence mean in a WHS setting?

So, if I step back one section 22 to 26 you know the duties of various people in the supply chain.  We cover that in the short session. So, go ahead and look at that and then moving on. There are requirements for duty holders to consult cooperate and coordinate and then a brief mention of the function of the regulator. And finally, the WHS Act enables WHS regulations and codes of practice. So we’re just mentioned that so those are the topics we’re going to cover quite a lot to get through. So that’s critical.

Disclaimer

So, first this is a disclaimer from the website from the federal legislation site and it does remind people looking at the site that the information put up there is for the benefit of the public and it’s free of charge.

 So, when you’re looking at this stuff you need to look at the relevance of the material for your purposes. OK, I’m looking at the Web site it is not a substitute for getting legal or appropriate professional advice relevant to your particular circumstances. So quick disclaimer there. This is just a way a website with general advice I think we’ll get we’ll get them and hence this video is only as good as the content that’s being present okay.

The Object of the Act

So, the object of the act then as you can say I’m quoting from it because I’m using quotation marks, so the main object of the act is to provide a balanced and nationally consistent framework for the health and safety of workers and workplaces.

 And that’s important in Australia because Australia is a federated state. So, we’ve got states and territories and we’ve got the federal government or the Commonwealth as it’s usually known and the laws all those different bodies do not always line up. In fact, sometimes it seems like the state and territories delight in doing things that are different from each other and different from the Commonwealth. And that’s not particularly helpful if you’re trying to you know operate in Australia as a corporation or you know you’re trying to do something big and trying to invest in the country.

 So, the WHS act of a model WHS Act was introduced to try and harmonize all this stuff. And you’ll see some more about that on the website. By the way and I’ve missed out on some objectives. As you can see, I’m not doing one subset B to H go to have a look at it online. But then in Section 2 The reminder is the principle of giving the highest level of protection against harm to workers and other persons as is reasonably practicable. Wonderful phrase again which will come back to okay.

Definitions

 Now there are lots of definitions in the act. And it’s worth having a look at them particularly if you look at the session that I did on system safety concepts, I was using definitions from the UK standard. Now I did that for a reason because that set of definitions was very well put together. So it was ideal for explaining those fundamental concepts where the concepts in Australia WHS are very different so if you are operating in Australian jurisdiction or you want to sell into an Australian jurisdiction do look at those definitions and actually being aware of what the definitions are will actually save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

 Now because we’re interested systems safety practitioners of introducing complex systems into service. I’ve got the definitions here of plant structure and substance. So basically, plant is any machinery equipment appliance container implement or to any component of those things and anything fitted or connected to any of those things. So, they go going for pretty a pretty broad definition. But bearing in mind we’re talking about plants we’re not talking about consumer goods. We’re not talking about selling toasters or electric toothbrushes to people. OK. There’s other legislation that covers consumer goods.

 Then when it comes to structure again, we’ve got anything that is constructed be fixed or movable temporary or permanent. And it might include things on the ground towers and masks underground pipelines infrastructure tunnels and mining any components or parts thereof. Again, a very broad definition and similarly substance any natural or artificial substance in whatever form it might be. So again, very broad and as you might recall from the previous session a lot of the rules for designers’ manufacturers, importers and suppliers cover plant structure and substances. So hence that’s why I picked just those three definitions out of the dozens there.

Exclusions

 It’s worth mentioning briefly exclusions: what the Act does not apply to. So, first, the Act does not apply to commercial ships basically. So, in Australia, the Federal legislation covering the safety of people in the commercial maritime industry is the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Maritime Industry) 1993, which is usually known as “OSHMI” applies to commercial vessels, so WHS does not. And the second exclusion is if you are operating an offshore petroleum or greenhouse gas storage platform and I think it’s more than three nautical miles offshore.

 But don’t take my word for that if you’re in that business go and check with the regulator NOPSEMA then this act the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 applies or OPGGS for short. So, if you’re in the offshore oil industry then you’ve got a separate Commonwealth act plot but those are the only two exceptions. So, where Commonwealth law applies the only things that WHS. does not apply to is commercial ships and offshore platforms I mentioned state and territory vs. Commonwealth. All the states and territories have adopted the model WHS system except Victoria which so far seems to be showing no interest in adopting WHS.

 Thanks, Victoria, for that. That’s very helpful! Western Australia is currently in process of consultation to adopt WHS, but they’ve still got their current OH&S legislation. So just note that there are some exclusions there. OK so if you’re in those jurisdictions then WHS does not apply. And of course, there are many other pieces of legislation and regulation that cover particular kinds of risk in Australia. For example, there’s a separate act called ARPANS that covers ionizing a non-ionizing radiation.

There are many other acts that cover safety and environmental things. Let’s go back one when I’m talking about those specific acts. They only apply to specific things whereas WHS act is a general Act applies to everything except those things that it doesn’t like to write move on.

So Far As is Reasonably Practicable

Okay now here we come to one of these three big ticket items and I’ve got two slides here. So, in this definition of reasonably practicable when it comes to ensuring health and safety reasonably practicable means doing what you are reasonably able to do to achieve the high standards of health safety in place.

 Considering and weighing up all the relevant matters; including, say, the first two we need to think about the likelihood of a hazard or risk. How likely is this thing to occur this potential threat to human health? And what’s the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk. So, we’ve got a likelihood and degree of harm or severity. So, if we recall the fundamental definition of risk is that it’s though it’s the factor of those two things taken together. So, this first part we’re thinking about what is the risk?

 And it’s worth mentioning that hazard is not defined in the Act and risk is very loosely defined. So, the act is being deliberately very broad here. We’re not taking a position on or style of approach to describing risks, so to the second part.

Having thought about the risk now we should consider what the person PCBU or officer, whoever it might be, ought reasonably to know about the hazard or risk and the ways of eliminating or minimizing the risks. So, what we should know about the risk and the ways of dealing with it of mitigating it of controlling and then we’ve got some more detail on these ways of controlling the risk.

 We need to think about the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimize the risk. Now I’m probably going to do a separate session on reasonably practicable because there is a whole guidebook on how to do it. So, we’ll go through that and at some stage in the future and go through that step by step about how you determine availability and suitability et cetera. And so, once you get into it it’s not too difficult. You just need to follow the guidelines which are very clear and very well laid out.

 So having done all of those things, after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of controlling it the we can then think about the cost associated with those risk controls and whether the cost of those controls is grossly disproportionate to the risk. As we will see later, in the special session, if the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk reduction then it’s probably not reasonable to do it. So, you don’t necessarily have to do it but we will step back and just look at the whole thing.

So, in a and b we’re looking at the likelihood and severity of the risk so and we’re (quantifying or qualitatively) assessing the risk. We’re thinking about what we could do about it, how available and suitable are those risk controls, and then putting it all together. How much will it cost to implement those risk controls and how reasonably practicable to do so. So what we have here is basically a risk assessment process that leads us to a decision about which controls we need to implement in order to achieve that ‘reasonably practicable’ statement that you see in so many parts of the act and indeed it’s also in the definition itself.

 So, this is how we determine what is reasonably practicable. We follow a risk assessment process. There is a risk assessment Code of Practice, which I will do a separate session on, which gives you a basic minimum risk assessment process to follow that will enable us to decide what is reasonably practicable. Okay, quite a big topic there. And as I say we’ll come back and do a couple more sessions on how to determine reasonably practical, so moving on to the primary duty of care we covered in the short session.

The Primary Duty of Care

 So I’m not really going to go through this again [in detail] but basically our primary duty is to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health and safety of workers, whether we’ve engaged them whether we’ve got somebody else to engage them or whether we are influencing or directing people carrying out the work. We have a primary duty of care if we’re doing any of those things. And secondly, it’s worth mentioning that the person conducting a business or undertaking the PCBU must ensure the health and safety of other people. Say, visitors to the workplace are members of the public who happen to be near the workplace.

 And of course, bearing in mind that this law applies to things like trains and aircraft if you have an accident with your moving vehicle or your plant you could put people in danger – in the case of aeroplanes anywhere in Australia and beyond. So, it’s not just about the work, the workers in the workplace. With some systems, you’ve got a very onerous responsibility to protect the public depending on what you’re doing. Now for a little bit more detail that we didn’t have in the short session. When we say we must ensure health and safety we’re talking about the provision and maintenance of a safe work environment or safe plant structures or safe systems of work talking about safe use handling and storage of structures and substances.

 We’re talking about adequate facilities for workers that are talking about the provision of information, training, instruction or supervision. Those workers and finally the health of workers and conditions of the workplace are monitored if need be for the purpose of preventing illness or injury. So, there should be some general monitoring of health and safety-related incidents. And if you’re dealing with certain chemicals or are you intentionally exposing people to certain things you may have to conduct special monitoring looking for contamination or poisoning of those people whatever it may be. So, you’ve got quite a bit of detail there about what it means to carry out the primary duty of care.

 And this is all consistent with the duties that we’ve talked about on designers, manufacturers, importers, and suppliers and for all these things there are codes of practice giving guidance on how to do these things. So, this whole work health and safety system is well thought through, put together, in that the law says you’ve got to do this. And there are regulations and codes of practice giving you more information on how you can fulfil your primary directive and indeed how you must fulfill your primary duty.

 And then finally there’s a slightly unusual part for at the end and this covers the special case where workers need to occupy accommodation under the control of the PCBU in order to get the job done. So you could imagine if you need workers to live somewhere remote and you provided accommodation then there are requirements for the employer to take care of those workers and maintain those premises so that they not exposed to risks.

 That’s a big deal because she might have a remote plant, especially in Australia which is a big place and not very well populated. You might be a long way away from external help. So if you have an emergency on-site you’re going to have to provide everything (not just an emergency you need to do that anyway) but if you’ve got workers living remotely as often happens in Australia you’ve got to look after those workers in a potentially very harsh environment.

And then finally it’s worth mentioning that self-employed persons have got to take care of their own health and safety. Note that a self-employed person is a PCBU, so even self-employed people have a duty of care as a PCBU.

The Three Duties

OK, sections 22 to 26. Take that primary duty of care and elaborate it for designers and manufacturers, importers and suppliers and for those installing constructing or commissioning plant substances and structures. And as we said in the free session all of those roles all of the people BCBS is doing that have three duties they have to ensure safety in a workplace and that includes you know designing and manufacturing the thing and ensuring that it’s safe and meets Australian regulations and obligations.

 We have a duty to test which actually includes doing all the calculations analysis and examination that’s needed to demonstrate safety and then to provide needed information to everybody who might use or come into contact with the system so those three duties apply consistently across the whole supply chain. Now we spent some time talking about that. We’re going to move on OK, so we are halfway through. So, a lot to take in. I hope you’re finding this useful and enjoying this. Let’s move on. Now this is an interesting one.

Officers of the PCBU

Officers of the PCBU have additional duties and an officer of the PCBU might be a company director. That’s explicitly included in the definition. A senior manager somebody who has influence. Offices of the PCBU must exercise due diligence. So basically, the implied relationship is you’ve got a PCBU, you’ve got somebody directing work whether it be design work manufacturing operating a piece of kit whatever it might be. And then there are more senior people who are in turn directing those PCBUs (the officers) so the officers must exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBUs comply with their duties and obligations.

Sections 2 to 4 cover penalties for offices if they fail. I’m not going to discuss that because as I’ve said elsewhere on the Safety Artisan website, I don’t like threatening people with penalties because I actually think that results in poor behavior, it actually results in people shirking and avoiding their duties rather than embracing them and getting on with it. If you frighten people or tell them what’s going to happen to them, they get it wrong. So, I’m not going to go there. If you’re interested you can look up the penalties for various people, which are clearly laid out. We move on to Section 5.

Due Diligence

 We’re now talking about what is due diligence in the context of health and safety. OK, I need to be precise because the term due diligence appears in other Australian law in various places meaning various things, but here this is the definition of due diligence within the WHS context. So, we’ve got six things to do in order to demonstrate due diligence.

So, officers must acquire and keep up to date with knowledge of work health and safety matters obligations and so forth. Secondly, officers must gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the piece and risks they control.  So, if you’re a company director you need to know something about what the operation does. You cannot hide behind “I didn’t know” because it’s a legal requirement for you to do it. So that closes off a whole bunch of defenses in court. You can’t plead ignorance because ignorance is, in fact, illegal and you’ve got to have a general understanding of the hazards and risks associated with those operations. So, you don’t necessarily have to be up on all the specifics of everything going on in your organization but whatever it is that your organization does. You should be aware of the general costs and risks associated with that kind of business.

Now, thirdly, we are moving on basically C D E and F refer to appropriate resources and processes, so the officers have got to ensure that PCBUs have available and use appropriate resources and processes in order to control risks. OK so that says you’ve got to provide those resources and processes and there is supervision, or some kind of process or requirement to say, yep, we put in let’s say a safety management system that ensures people do actually use the stuff that they are supposed to use in order to keep themselves safe.

 And that’s very relevant of course because often people don’t like wearing, for example, protective personal protective equipment because it’s uncomfortable or slows you down, so the temptation is to take it off. Moving on to part D we’re still on the appropriate processes; we must have appropriate processes for receiving and considering information on incidents, hazards and risks. So again, we’ve got to have something in place that keeps us up to date with the incidents, hazards and risks in our own plants and maybe similar plants in the industry and, we need a process to respond in a timely way to that information.

 So, if we discover that there is a new incident or hazard that you didn’t previously know about. We need to respond and react to that quickly enough to make a difference to the health and safety of workers. So again as another that sort of works in concert with part B doesn’t it. In part A and B we need to keep up to date on the risks and what’s going on in the business and part A, we need to ensure that the PCBU has processes for compliance with any duty or obligation and follows them again to provide that stuff.

In the system safety world, often the designers will need to provide the raw material that becomes those processes. Or maybe if we’re selling the product, we sell a product with the instruction manual with all the processes that could be required.

And then finally the officers must verify the provision and use of these resources and processes that we’ve been talking about in C D an E. So, we’ve got a simple six-point program that comprises due diligence, but as you can see it’s very to the point and it’s quite demanding. There’s no shirking this stuff or pretending you didn’t know and it’s I suspect it’s designed to hang Company directors who neglect and abuse their workers and, as a result, harm happens to them.

But I mean ultimately let’s face it this is all good common-sense stuff. We should be doing this anyway. And in any kind of high-risk industry we should have a safety management system that does all of this and more. These are only the minimum required for all industries and all undertakings in Australia. OK let’s move away from the big stick. Let’s talk about some sort of cozy, softer stuff.

Consult, Cooperate and Coordinate

If you are a duty holder, if you’ve got a duty of care to people as a PCBU or an officer, you must consult, cooperate and coordinate your activities with all other offices and bases be used.

You have a duty in relation to the same matter. So perhaps you are a supplier of kit and you get information from the designer or the manufacturer with the updates on safety or maybe they inform you of problems with the kit. You must pass that on. Let’s imagine you’re introducing a complex system into service. There are going to be lots of different stakeholders, and you all must work together in order to meet WHS obligations. So, there’s no excuse or trying to ask the buck to other people.

That’s not going to work if you haven’t actively managed the risk, as you are potentially already doing something illegal and again, we won’t talk about the penalties of this. We’re just talking about the good things we’re expected to do. So, we’re trying to keep it positive. And you’ve got a duty to consult with your workers who either carry out work or who are likely to be directly affected by what’s going on and the risks. Now, this is a requirement that procedures in Sections 2 and 3, but of course we should be consulting with our workers because they’ve often got practical knowledge about controlling risks and what is available and suitable to do so, which we will find helpful.

So, consulting workers is not only a duty it’s actually a good way of doing business and doing business efficiently so moving on to section 152.

The Regulator

There are several sections about the regulator, but to my mind, they don’t add much. So, we’re just going to talk about Section 152, which is the functions of a regulator and the regulator has got several functions. So, they give advice and make recommendations to the relevant minister or Commonwealth Minister of the government. They monitor and enforce compliance with the act.

 They provide advice and information to duty holders and the community they collect analyse and publish statistics. They’re supposed to foster a co-operative, consultative relationship in the community to promote and support education and training and to engage in and promote and coordinate the sharing of information. And then finally they’ve got some legal duties with courts and industrial tribunals, and here’s the catch-all, any other function conferred on the regulator by the Act. If we look at the first six the ones that I’ve highlighted there are a number of regulators in Australia and because of the complexity of our federal government system, we’ve got.

 It’s not always clear which regulator you need to deal with and not all regulators are very good at this stuff. I have to say having worked in Europe and America and Australia, for example on Part D. Australian regulators are not very good at analyzing and publishing statistics in general. Usually, if you want high-quality statistics from a regulator, you’re usually better off looking at a European regulator in your industry or an American regulator. The Aussie ones don’t seem to be very good at that, in general.

There are exceptions. NOPSEMA, for example in the offshore world, are particularly good. But then you would expect because of the inherent dangers of offshore operations. Otherwise, I’ve not been that impressed with some of the regulators. The exception to that is Safe Work Australia. So, if you’re looking for advice and information, statistics, education and training and sharing of information then Safe Work Australia is your best bet. Now ironically Safe Work Australia is not a regulator.

Safe Work Australia

They are a statutory authority and they created, in consultation with many others I might say, they created a model WHS Act the model regulations and the Model Codes practice. So, if you go on their website you will find lots of good information on there and indeed I tend to look at that in order to find information to post on safety artisan. So, they’ve got some good WHS information on there. But of course, the wherever you go look at their site you must bear in mind that they are not the regulator of anything or anyone. So, for you’ve also got to go and look at the find the relevant regulator to your business or undertaking and you’ve got to look at what your regulator requires you to do.

 Very often when it comes to looking at guidance your best bet is safe work Australia okay.

Regulations and Codes of Practice

I’ve mentioned regulations and codes of practice. Basically, these sections of the act enable those codes of practice and regulations so the Minister has power to approve Commonwealth codes of practice and similarly state and territory ministers can do the same for their versions of WHS. This is very interesting and we’ll come back to relook at codes of practice in another session. An approved code of practice is admissible in court as evidence, it’s admissible as the test of whether or not a duty or obligation under the WHS Act has been complied with.

 And basically, the implication of this is that you are ignorant of codes of practice at your peril because if something goes wrong then codes of practice are what you will be judged against at minimum. So that’s a very important point to note and we’ll come back to that on another session.

Next, Codes of Practice and then regulation-making powers. For some unknown reason to me, the Governor-General may authorize regulations. I mean that doesn’t really matter. The codes of practice and the regulations are out there, and the regulations are quite extensive.  I think six hundred pages. So, there’s a lot of stuff in there. And again, we’ll do a separate session on WHS regulations soon OK.

That’s All Folks!

I appreciate we’ve covered quite a lot of ground there but of course, you can watch the video as many times as you like and go and look at the Act online. Mentioning that all the information I’ve shown you is pretty much word for word taken from the federal register of legislation and I’m allowed to do that under the terms of the license.

Creative Commons Licence

 And it’s one of those terms I have to tell you that I took this information yesterday on the 12th of October 2019. You should always go to that website to find the latest on Commonwealth legislation (and indeed if you’re working on it state or territory jurisdiction you should go and see the relevant regulator’s legislation on their site). Finally, you will find more information on copyright and attribution at the SafetyArtisan.com website, where I’ve reproduced all of the requirements, which you can check. At the Safety Artisan we’re very pleased to comply with all our obligations.

Now for more on this video, you may have seen it on Patreon on the Safety Artisan page or you may have seen it elsewhere, but it is for sure available Patreon.com/SafetyArtisan. Okay. So, thank you very much for listening and all that remains for me to do is to sign off and say thanks for listening and I look forward to presenting another session to you in a month’s time. Take care.

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Start Here Work Health and Safety

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law. Are you a safety professional thinking of emigrating from the UK to Australia?  Well, I’ve done it, and here’s my BREXIT special guide!  In this 45-minute video, The Safety Artisan looks at the similarities and differences between British and Australian safety practices.  This should also help Aussies thinking of heading over to work in the UK and even, dare I say it, to the EU!

“It’s beginning to look a lot like BREXIT! La, La-la, la, la…”

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law, Key Points

  • Introduction. With BREXIT looming, British and Australian professionals may be thinking of working in each other’s countries;
  • Legislation. Our laws, regulations and codes of practice are quite similar;
  • Guidance. Try the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the Safe Work Australia websites – both are excellent;
  • Jurisdictions. This is complex in a federated state like Australia, so Brits need to do their homework;
  • Regulators. This varies by industry/domain – many are very similar, while some are quite different;
  • Cultural Issues: Australia vs. the UK. Brits and Aussies are likely to feel quite comfortable working in each other’s countries; and
  • Cultural Issues: Australia vs. the EU. There are some commonalities across the EU, but also dramatic differences.

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law: Transcript

Click Here for the Transcript

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law: Topics

This is a free full-length show. I think it’s going to be about 30 minutes just to let you know; in those 30 minutes, we’re going to compare the British and Australian approaches to safety. We’re going to talk about the similarities and differences between Australian and British legislation. On the safety guidance that’s available from the various authorities the different jurisdictions in the UK and Australia. Jurisdiction is not really an issue in the UK but certainly is in Australia, so that’s something we really need to go through.

We’ll talk about regulators and the different approaches to regulation. And, finally, some cultural issues. I may mention the dreaded EU. It’s worth talking a little bit about that too because there are still significant links between the EU and the UK on how safety is done which Australians might find helpful.

Introduction

Now, where’s Michael Bublé when I need him to sing the song? It says it’s looking a lot like Brexit. With the Conservatives winning in the UK they’ve passed the Brexit act. It looks like it’s finally going to happen. Now whether you think that’s a good idea or not I’m not going to debate that, you’ll be pleased to hear – you’re sick of that, I’m sure.

There are going to be some safety professionals and other engineering professionals who were working in the EU. And who maybe won’t be able to do so easily anymore, and there might be some Brits thinking well maybe this is an opportunity. This is a prompt for me to think about moving to Australia and seeing what life is like there. Conversely, there may be Aussies seeking opportunities in the UK because if the flow of professionally qualified Engineers and so forth from the EU countries dries up or slows down then there might be more opportunity for Aussies. Indeed, the UK has been talking about introducing an Australian-style points-based immigration system. And I think we might see a favourable treaty between UK and Australia before too long.

What have I got to contribute here? I spent quite a few years in the UK as a safety engineer and safety consultant and I worked on a lot of international projects. I worked on a lot of UK procurements of American equipment. And I also worked very closely with German, Italian and Spanish colleagues on the Eurofighter Typhoon for thirteen years on and off. And I have quite a bit of experience of working in Germany and some of working with the French. I’ve got I think quite a reasonable view of different approaches to safety and how the UK differs from and is like our European counterparts.

Also, seven years ago I emigrated to Australia. I went through that points-based process, fortunately with a firm to back me up. I made the transition from doing UK-style safety to Australian-style safety.

Let’s get on with it.

Legislation #1

There are very many similarities between Australian and UK approaches to safety. Australia has learned a lot from the UK and continues to be very close to the UK in many ways, particularly in our style of law and legislation. But there are differences and I’m mainly going to talk about the differences.

First of all in the UK we’ve had the Health And Safety At Work (HSAW) Act around since 1974. That’s the executive Act that sets up the Health and Safety Executive the HSE as a regulator, gives it teeth and enables further legislation and regulations. Now if I was still in the UK, the next thing we would talk about would be in any discussion about health and safety at work would be the ‘six-pack’.

Now, these were six EU directives that the UK converted into UK regulations, as indeed all EU member states were required to. Incidentally, the UK was very successful in influencing EU safety policy, so it’s a bit ironic that their turning their back on that.  What will you find in the six-pack?

First of all, the regulations on management of health and safety at work otherwise known as HSG65 and there’s a lot of good advice in there on how to do risk management that is broadly equivalent, for an Aussie audience, to the Risk Management Code Of Practice: similar things in there that it’s trying to achieve. Then we’ve got the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations or PUWER for short. That says if you provide equipment for workers it’s got to be fit for purpose. Then there are regulations on manual handling, on workplace health safety and welfare, on personal protective equipment at work, and on the health and safety of display screen equipment of the kind that I’m using here and now (I’m sat in my EU-standard computer chair with five legs and certain mandatory adjustable settings).

Now Aussies will be sat there looking at this list thinking it looks awfully familiar. We just package them up slightly differently.

There’s also, it should be said, a separate act called the Control Of Major Accident Hazards or COMAH as it’s known. And that was introduced after the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea which claimed 167 lives in a single accident. That covers big installations that could cause a mass-casualty accident. So that’s the UK approach.

Legislation #2

Now the Australian approach is much simpler. The Aussies have had time to look at UK legislation, take the essentials from it and boil it down in into its essence quite cleverly. There is a single Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, which was signed up in 2011 and came into force on the 1st of January 2012. And there are a single set of WHS Regulations that go hand in hand with the Act.

And they cover a wide spectrum of stuff. A lot of the things in the UK that you would see covered in different acts and different regulations are all covered in one place. Not only does it address, as you would expect, the workplace responsibilities of employers and employees etc., but there are also upstream duties on designers and manufacturers and suppliers and importers and so forth. The WHS act pulls all these things together quite elegantly into one.

It’s a very readable act. I have to say it’s one of the few pieces of legislation that I think a non-lawyer can read and make sense of. But you’ve got to read what it says not what you think it says (just a word of caution).  The regulations cover Major Hazard Facilities, rather like the COMAH regulations, so they’re all included as well.

It’s worth noting that Australian WHS, unlike the UK, does not differentiate between safety and security. If somebody gets hurt, then it doesn’t matter whether it is an accident or whether it was a malicious act. If it happens to a worker, then WHS covers it. And that puts obligations on employers to look after the security of workers, which is an interesting difference, as the UK law generally does not do that. We’re seeing more prosecutions (I’m told by the lawyers) for harm caused by criminal acts than we are yet seeing for safety accidents.

And that’s the act and regulations. And it’s also worth saying that Australia has a system of Codes Of Practice just as the UK has Approved Codes Of Practice. Now that’s all I’m going to say for now. There are other videos and resources on the website that go into the Act and Regulations and COP. I’m going to do a whole series on all those things, unpacking them one by one.

Legislation #3

Let’s think about exceptions for a moment because the way that the UK and Australia do exceptions in their Health and Safety legislation is slightly different. In the UK, the Health and Safety at Work Act explicitly does not apply to ships and aircraft moving under their own power. That’s quite clear. That kind of division does not occur in Australia.

Also, the UK Health and Safety Act does not apply to special forces, or to combat operations by the armed forces, or to the work up to combat operations. Again, those exclusions do not exist in Australia. And then it’s also worth saying there are many other acts enforced by the UK HSE. It’s not just about HSAW, the six-pack and COMAH. There’s a lot of regs and stuff on mining and offshore, etc., you name it. The UK is a complex economy and there are lots of historical laws. Going back up to 100 years. I think the Explosives Act was in 1898, which is still being enforced.

Now Australia has a different approach. They’ve made a clean sweep; taken a very different approach as we’ll see later. And there are only really three explicit exclusions to the Act. It says that WHS doesn’t apply to merchant ships, which are covered by the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act. So, merchant ships aren’t covered, and WHS doesn’t apply to offshore petroleum installations either. More on that later.

There is a separate act that deals with radiation protection, and that is enforced by the ARPANSA, the Australian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Protection Agency. So, [HSAW and WHS have] a slightly different approach to what is covered and what is not; but very similar in the essentials.

Legislation #4

One of those essentials is the determination of how much safety is enough. In the UK the HSE talks about ALARP and in Australia the Act talks about SFARP. This quote here is directly from the UK HSE website. Basically, it says that ALARP and SFARP are essentially the same things. And the core concept, what is reasonably practicable, is what’s defined in the WHS Act.

Now it’s worth mentioning that the HSE say, this because it was the HSE who invented the term ALARP. If you look in UK legislation you will see the term SFARP, and you’ll see other terms like ‘all measures necessary’. There are various phrases in UK laws to say how much is enough, and the HSE said it doesn’t matter what it says in the law, the test we will use is ALARP and it covers all these things. It was always intended to be essentially the same as SFARP.

Now there is some controversy in Australia about that, and some people think that ALARP and SFARP are different. The truth is that in Australia, as in the UK, some people did ALARP badly. They did it wrong. If you do ALARP wrong, it’s not the same as SFARP, it’s different. But if you’re doing ALARP properly it is the same. Now, there are some people who will die in a ditch in order to disagree with me over that but I’m quoting you from the HSE, who invented the term to describe SFARP.

It’s also worth noting that WHS uses the term SFARP, but the offshore regulator, which is the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Agency (NOPSEMA), they use the term ALARP, because they’ve got a separate act from WHS for enforcing safety on offshore platforms. But again, even though they’re using ALARP, it’s the same as SFARP, if you look at the way that NOPSEMA explain ALARP.  They do it properly. And it matches up with SFARP, in fact, that NOPSEMA guidance is very good.

Guidance

We’ll talk more on regulators, but first a little aside and you’ll see why in a moment. Before we can get to talking about regulators, I need to tell you about where you can get guidance in Australia.

Now in the UK, you’ve got the HSE, who is the regulator and they also provide a lot of guidance. Any safety Engineer in the UK will immediately think of a document called R2P2, which is short for ‘Reducing Risk, Protecting People’. That’s an 80-something page document, in which the HSE explain their rationale for how they will enforce safety law and safety regulations and what they mean by ALARP and so on. There’s also a lot of guidance on their website as well, which is excellent and available under a Creative Commons licence so you can do an awful lot with it.

In Australia, it’s a little bit more complex than that. The WHS act was drafted by Safe Work Australia, which is a statutory agency of the government. It’s not a regulator, but it was the SWA who developed the Model WHS Act, the Model Regulations and the Model Codes Of Practice. (More on that in just a second.) It’s Safe Work Australia that provides a lot of good guidance on their website.

Most Australian regulators will refer you to legislation [i.e. not their own guidance]. We’ve got a bit of an American approach in that respect in Australia, in that you can’t do anything without a lawyer to tell you what you can and can’t do. Well, that’s the way that some government agencies seem to approach it. Sadly, they’ve lost the idea that the regulator is there to bridge the gap and explain safety to ordinary people so they can just get on with it.

Now some regulators in Australia, particularly say the New South Wales state regulator or Victorian state regulator do provide good guidance for use within their jurisdiction. The red flashing lights and the sirens should be going off at this point because we have a jurisdiction issue in Australia, and we’ll come onto that now.

Jurisdictions

In the UK, it’s reasonably simple. You’ve got the HSE for England and Wales, you’ve got the HSE for Scotland and you’ve got the HSE for Northern Ireland. They are enforcing essentially the same acts and the same regulations, right across the United Kingdom. Now there are differences in law: England and Wales have a legal system; Scotland has a slightly different legal system; then Northern Ireland has peculiarities of its own. But they’re all related. There are historical reasons why the law is different, but, from a safety point of view, all those three regulators do the same thing. And work consistently.

In Australia, it’s a bit different. Australia is a Federated Nation. We have States and Territories as you can see, we’ve got Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Within New South Wales we’ve got the ACT, that’s the Australian Capital Territory, and Canberra is the Australian Federal capital.

Most Australians live on that East Coast, down the coast of Queensland NSW and Victoria. Then we’ve got Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. All those states and territories have and enforce their own Safety Law and Regulations.

On top of that, you’ve got a Federal approach to safety as well. Now, this will be a bit of a puzzle to Brits, but in Australia, we call the national government in Canberra ‘the Commonwealth’. Brits are used to the Commonwealth being 100+ countries that used to belong to the UK, but now they’re a club. But in Australia, the Commonwealth is the national government, the Federal Government.

Regulators #1

Let’s talk about regulators, starting at the national level. If you look at the bottom right-hand corner, we have got Comcare. They are the national regulator, who enforce WHS for The Commonwealth of Australia, [Which is] all Federal workplaces, Defence, any land that’s owned by The Commonwealth, and anything where you’ve got a national system. You’ve also got some nationalised or semi-nationalised industries that effectively belong to the Commonwealth, or are set up by national regulations, and they operate to the Commonwealth version of WHS

Then you’ve got the Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. All those states and territories have their own versions of the Model WHS Act, Regulations and COP. They’re not all identical but they’re pretty much the same. There are slight differences in the way that things are enforced, for example in South Australia there’s a couple of Codes Of Practice that Work Safe SA have said they will not enforce.

These differences don’t change the price of fish. All these regulators have their own jurisdiction, and they’re all doing more or less the same thing as Commonwealth WHS. If you start with the Model WHS Act or the Commonwealth version, then you won’t be far off what’s going on in those states and territories. However, you do have to remember that if you’re doing non-Commonwealth work in those states and territories, you’re going to be under the jurisdiction of the local state or territory regulator.

That’s the easy bit!

Unfortunately, not all states have adopted WHS yet. Western Australia (bottom left-hand corner) they are going to implement WHS but it’s not there yet. Currently, in December 2019 they’re heading towards WHS, but they’re still using their old Occupational Health and Safety (OS&H) Legislation from about 1999, I think.

Victoria has decided that they’re not going to implement WHS. Even though everybody agreed they would [change to WHS], they’re going to stick with their Occupational Health and Safety at work Act, which again I think dates from something like 1999. (These acts are amended and kept up to date.)  Victoria has no plans to implement WHS.

You, like me, might be thinking what a ridiculous way this is to organise yourself. We’re a nation of less than twenty-five million people, and we’ve got all this complexity about regulators and how we regulate and yes: it is daft! Model WHS was an attempt to get away from that stupidity. I have to say it’s mostly been successful, and I think we will get there one day, but that’s the situation we’ve got in Australia.

Regulators #2

Now, a quick little sample of regulators in the UK and Australia just to compare. I can’t go through them all, because there are a lot. I wanted to illustrate the similarities and differences; there are many similarities for Brits coming to Australia or Aussies going to the UK. You will find a regulatory system that in most part looks and feels familiar.

In the UK, for example, you’ve got the Civil Aviation Authority, who regulate non-military flying, airports etc; in Australia, you’ve got the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which does almost the same thing. In the UK you’ve got the Air Accident Investigation Branch, who do what their name implies; in Australia, you’ve got the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau, who also investigates air accidents (they do maritime accidents as well). By the way, the ATSB in Australia is somewhat modelled on the American ATSB, with a very similar approach to the way they do business.

Now when we get onto the maritime side, it’s quite different. In the UK, you’ve got the Maritime and Coastguard Agency or MCGA. They regulate Civil Maritime Traffic and health and safety on merchant ships; they also investigate accidents. In Australia, don’t forget we’ve got the ATSB looking at maritime accidents and publishing statistics. We’ve then got the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the AMSA, who look at the design aspects of safety of ships. (These are all national / Federal / Commonwealth regulators, by the way.) You’ve then got ‘Sea Care’, who look at the OH&S workplace aspects of working on merchant ships.

Then separately [again] we’ve got the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority NOPSEMA, who look after oil rigs and gas rigs, that sit more than three nautical miles offshore. Because if they’re inside three nautical miles then that’s the jurisdiction of the local state or territory.

Indeed, NOPSEMA is evidence of the Federal government trying to get all the states and territories to come together.  They succeeded with WHS but with the offshore stuff, the states and territories refused to cooperate with the Commonwealth. (This is a common theme in Australia. The different branches of the government seem to delight in fighting each other rather than serving the Australian public.) The Commonwealth decided Australia could not develop an offshore industry on this basis – it wasn’t going to happen. So, they unilaterally set up NOPSEMA. Bang. Suck on that states and territories.

Culture

Let’s look a little bit at culture. Let’s face it, Australians, Brits and Americans in many ways are very similar. We have an Anglo-Saxon approach to things, and Australian and British law is very similar. We also have a similar sense of humour, which is very important when trying to do safety

You’ve got the five eyes countries – Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada – who have worked closely together for several decades. There’s a lot of commonality between these English-speaking countries that have a common Anglo-Saxon colonial past.

However, the big difference in Australia is that we are much more heavily influenced by the US than the UK is. You’ll find a lot of a US-style ‘certification against specification’ in Australia in different industries. That’s subtly different to the UK and Australian legal approach, which is based on ‘safety by intent’. This idea is that safety is achieved by keeping people safe [managing risk in the real world], where a contract specification means very little. Are people kept safe? That’s the essential idea behind UK and Australian law. It’s a bit that’s a bit different to the sort of American approach of you know specifications and requirements.

There’s nothing wrong with either approach, they’re just different, but mixing them together does cause confusion. In the UK if you work, as I did for most of my working life, in the aviation industry, it is an international enterprise and it uses a US-style safety-by-specification and certification approach because civil aviation is essentially US-led. (From the 1944 Chicago convention onwards.) It’s important to understand the difference, and there’s a lot more of this US certification influence in Australia.

Summary

We’ve talked about some different aspects. I can’t go into detail on everything, as I simply don’t know all the details on everything, as I’m not an expert in it all domains. Nobody is. But I hope I’ve given you a useful overview of differences for British engineers wanting to be aware of safety in Australia, and Aussies wanting to go to the UK.

Cultural Issues: UK versus the EU

It’s also worth having, while we’re on the subject, just one slide on the EU, because the UK has been part of the EU for a long time. UK legislation has been heavily influenced by the EU and vice versa. As I said earlier, the UK has been quite successful in influencing EU directives, which the UK that turns into regulations as the other EU nations do. That’s the second bullet point. If you go work in the EU, you should find local laws that implement the EU directives in common with the UK.

The big difference between the UK and the other EU states is the ALARP measure of how much safety is enough, and that is unique to the UK. So much so, that other EU nations took the UK to the European Court of Arbitration saying that ALARP was a sort of anti-competitive variation that shouldn’t be allowed. Now, they lost and ALARP stands in the UK, but just illustrates that there are some critical differences and ALARP is probably the most important one.

Back to the first bullet point. In English, we differentiate between safety and security. Now I’ve mentioned the UK HSAW does so but WHS does not do that (deliberately I guess), whether it’s accidental or harm or malicious harm you’ve got to protect your workers. However, in many European countries, the word for safety and security are the same. If you get to Germany, ‘Sicherheit’ means safety and security. In France it’s ‘securité’ and variations thereof in other romance languages, safety and security are the same words in many European languages.

Now having said that, a lot of these EU economies where you might be thinking of working, are modern economies with lots of internationally regulated stuff going on. The aviation industry, for example, but there are lots of advanced industries that are regulated in a similar way, right around the world. You’ll still find familiar concepts in different EU countries.

Now culturally, I’ve spent a lot of time working with Germans, who tend to come unstuck with the Anglo-Saxon approach to safety, because they have the mentality that they make things to work, not to fail. For German engineers especially, the Anglo-Saxon fixation with looking at how things could go wrong seems very strange. They often just don’t get it unless they’ve been in an industry like aviation, where that approach has been inculcated into them. Germans often don’t understand Australian WHS, because it’s just not their mentality. (They don’t build things to fail, they build them to work, so maybe ‘Safety-II’ will take off in Germany because of that.)

In France, I have to say the French are extremely competent engineers and they’re very good at safety. However, they do it their way they do it the French way, which is different to UK/Australia. Don’t expect the French to do it our way. They’re going to do it their way, and you need to learn, to understand what they do, how they do it and why they do it that way. France is in many ways a very nationalized country and it’s a national enterprise. Most engineers go through one system, and there is one top college for engineering in France.

There’s one and only one way of doing it in France, which may come as a bit of a shock to Aussies given our somewhat ‘here and there’ approach to regulation in Australia. The French are competent but don’t expect them to comply with the Aussie or UK way of doing things.

Now, I’ve said ‘variations across Southern Europe’, and I’m trying to be tactful here because a lot of the southern European approach to Safety is very variable. Sometimes I’ve been very impressed watching how, say, the Spanish do business, but in other countries like Italy the approach to safety can be a bit of a shocker. If you’re buying stuff from Italy, the contract may say they’ll do ‘x y z’ and they’ll produce safety reports. Just because they’ve said so, doesn’t mean a that it’s going to happen or that the stuff they produce is going to be worth the paper it’s written on, quite frankly. Some countries are very good in certain areas, but not so much in others.

Copyright Statement

Well, thanks for listening!  This presentation contains a little bit of information from the UK HSE and some from Safe Work Australia and I’ve produced that under the [appropriate] Creative Commons licenses. If you go to The Safety Artisan website you will see the details of the licenses.

The content of this video presentation is copyright The Safety Artisan, 2019.

[Please SUBSCRIBE to The Safety Artisan YouTube channel to see free training videos and free previews of paid content.].

It just remains for me to say stay safe and I’ll see you next month. Goodbye!

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law: The End!

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Work Health and Safety

WHS Regulations and Codes of Practice

WHS Regulations

The WHS Regulations specify the way in which some duties under the WHS Act must be met and prescribes procedural or administrative requirements to support the WHS Act (for example requiring licences for specific activities and the keeping of records).

All quotes are from the Guide. See the Disclaimer and Copyright Statement.

The WHS Regulations run to over 600 pages! The Safety Artisan will produce guidance material about WHS Regulations soon…

Codes of Practice

Codes of Practice provide practical guidance on how to meet the standards set out in the WHS Act and the WHS Regulations. Codes of Practice are admissible in proceedings as evidence of whether or not a duty under the WHS laws has been met. They can also be referred to by an inspector when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.

It is recognised that equivalent or better ways of achieving the required work health and safety outcomes may be possible. For that reason compliance with Codes of Practice is not mandatory providing that any other method used provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety than suggested by the Code of Practice.”

The Guide.

There are several Code of Practice, and they are vitally important to understanding obligations under Australian WHS. The Safety Artisan will produce more material about WHS Codes of Practice, soon…

Interpretive Guidelines

Interpretive guidelines are a formal statement on how WHS regulators believe key concepts in the WHS Act operate and in doing so provide an indication of how the laws will be enforced.”

The Guide.

The Interpretive Guidelines explain some key concepts in WHS – such as PCBUs and Officers of the PCBU – so they are very useful! The Safety Artisan will produce more material about WHS Interpretive Guidelines, soon…

Safety Artisan Instructional Videos cover most of these Topics – follow the ‘WHS Page’ Link, below:

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