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Welcome to the New Website!

Welcome to the New Website! It has been professionally redesigned to provide a much better user experience by the awesome Sam Jusaitis. Our thanks to him for doing such a great job.

The Main Pages

You can now browse through the main pages, which give you all the content that you might need, in the order that you choose it:

  • Topics. This page showcases the main safety topics that we cover, so far they are:
    • Start Here. Mostly free introductory videos for those new to safety;
    • Safety Analysis. A complete and in-depth suite of lessons on this subject; and
    • Work Health & Safety. All you need to know about Australian WHS legislation and practice.
  • About. Some information about The Safety Artisan – why you would choose safety tuition from me.
  • Connect. Here, you can sign up for free email newsletters, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and follow us on social media.
  • Checkout. You’ll get there if you purchase any of the downloadable videos and content – but there’s plenty of free stuff too!

Coming Soon: FAQ

All the most Frequently Asked Questions on Google about safety, risk, and related topics. Answers too!

Welcome to the New Website Logo

Sam also designed the new logo, which reminds some people of the human eye. It was actually derived from the shapes of various warning signs, as shown below. Clever, eh?

Categories
Safe Design

Safe Design (Full)

Want some good guidance on Safe Design? In this 52-minute video from the Safety Artisan, you will find it. We take the official guidance from Safe Work Australia and provide a value-added commentary on it. The guidance integrates seamlessly with Australian law and regulations, but it is genuinely useful in any jurisdiction.

A free video on ‘Good Work Designis available here.

This is the three-minute demo of the full, 52-minute-long video.

Topics: Safe Design

  • A safe design approach;
  • Five principles of safe design;
  • Ergonomics and good work design;
  • Responsibility for safe design;
  • Product lifecycle;
  • Benefits of safe design;
  • Legal obligations; and
  • Our national approach.

Transcript: Safe Design

Click Here to Reveal the Transcript

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Safety Artisan, where you will receive safety training via instructional videos on system safety, software safety and design safety. Today I’m talking about design safety. I’m Simon and I’m recording this on the 12th of January 2020, so our first recording of the new decade and let’s hope that we can give you some 20/20 vision. What we’re going to be talking about is safe design, and this safe design guidance comes from Safe Work Australia. I’m showing you some text taken from the website and adding my own commentary and experience.

Topics

The topics that we’re going to cover today are: a safe design approach, five principles of safe design, ergonomics (more broadly, its human factors), who has responsibility, doing safe design through the product lifecycle, the benefits of it, our legal obligations in Australia (but this is good advice wherever you are) and the Australian approach to improving safe design in order to reduce casualties in the workplace.

Introduction

The idea of safe design is it’s about integrating safety management, asset identification and risk assessment early in the design process to eliminate or reduce risks throughout the life of a product,  whatever the product is, it might be a building, a structure, equipment, a vehicle or infrastructure. This is important because in Australia, in a five-year period, we suffered almost 640 work-related fatalities, of which almost 190 were caused by unsafe design or design related factors contributed to that fatality., there’s an important reason to do this stuff, it’s not an academic exercise, we’re doing it for real reasons. And we’ll come back to the reason why we’re doing it at the end of the presentation.

A Safe Design Approach #1

First, we need to begin safe design right at the start of the lifecycle (we will see more of that later) because it’s at the beginning of the lifecycle where you’re making your bad decisions about requirements. What do you want this system to do? How do we design it to do that? What materials and components and subsystems are we going to make or buy in order to put this thing together, whatever it is? And thinking about how we are going to construct it, maintain it, operate it and then get rid of it at the end of life., there are lots of big decisions being made early in the life cycle. And sometimes these decisions are made accidentally because we don’t consciously think about what we’re doing. We just do stuff and then we realise afterwards that we’ve made a decision with sometimes quite serious implications. And, a big part of my day job as a consultant is trying to help people think about those issues and make good decisions early on when it’s still cheap, quick and easy to do. Because, of course, the more you’ve invested into a project, the more difficult it is to make changes both from a financial point of view and if people have invested their time, sweat and tears into a project, they get very attached to it and they don’t want to change it. there’s an emotional investment made in the project. the earlier you get in, at the feasibility stage let’s say, and think about all of this stuff the easier it is to do it. A big part of that is where is this kit going to end up? What legislation codes of practice and standards do we need to consider and comply with? So that’s the approach.

A Safe Design Approach #2

So, designers need to consider how safety can be achieved through the lifecycle. For example, can we design a machine with protective guarding so that the operator doesn’t get hurt using it, but also so the machine can be installed and maintained? That’s an important point as often to get at stuff we must take it apart and maybe we must remove some of those safety features. How do we then protect and maintain when the machine is maybe opened up, and the workings are things that you can get caught in or electrocuted by. And how do we get rid of it? Maybe we’ve used some funky chemicals that are quite difficult to get rid of. And Australia, I suspect like many other places, we’ve got a mountain of old buildings that are full of asbestos, which is costing a gigantic sum of money to get rid of safely. we need to design a building which is fit for occupancy. Maybe we need to think about occupants that are not able bodied or they’re moving stuff around in the building they don’t want to and need a trolley to carry stuff around. we need access, we need sufficient space to do whatever it is we need to do.

This all sounds simple, obvious, doesn’t it? So, let’s look at these five principles. First of all, a lot of this you’re going to recognise from the legal stuff, because the principles of safe design are very much tied in and integrated with the Australian legal approach, WHS, which is all good, all consistent and all fits together.

Five Principles of Safe Design

Principle 1: Persons with control. If you’re making a decision that affects design and products, facilities or processes, it is your responsibility to think about safety, it’s part of your due diligence (If you recall that phrase and that session).

Principle 2: We need to apply safe design at every stage in the lifecycle, from the very beginning right through to the end. That means thinking about risks and eliminating or managing them as early as we can but thinking forward to the whole lifecycle; sounds easy, but it’s often done very badly.

Principle 3: Systematic risk management. We need to apply these things that we know about and listen to other broadcasts from The Safety Artisan. We go on and on and on about this because this is our bread and butter as safety engineers, as safety professionals – identify hazards, assess the risk and think about how we will control the risks in order to achieve a safe design.

Principal 4: Safe design, knowledge and capability. If you’re controlling the design, if you’re doing technical work or you’re managing it and making decisions, you must know enough about safe design and have the capability to put these principles into practice to the extent that you need to discharge your duties. When I’m thinking of duties, I’m especially thinking of the health and safety duties of officers, managers and people who make decisions. You need to exercise due diligence (see the Work Health and Safety lessons for more about due diligence).

Principle 5: Information transfer. Part of our duties is not just to do stuff well, but to pass on the information that the users, maintainers, disposers, etc will need in order to make effective use of the design safely. That is through all the lifecycle phases of the product.

So those are the five principles of safe design, and I think they’re all obvious really, aren’t they? So, let’s move on.

A Model for Safe Design

As the saying goes, is a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is the overview of the Safe Design Model, as they call it. We’ve got activities in a sequence running from top to bottom down the centre. Then on the left we’ve got monitor and review, that is somebody in a management, controlling function keeping an eye on things. On the right-hand side, we need to communicate and document what we’re doing. And of course, it’s not just documentation for documentation sake, we need to do this in order to fulfil our obligations to provide all the necessary information to users, etc. that’s the basic layout.

If we zoom in on the early stage, Pre-Design, we need to think about what problem are we trying to solve? What are we trying to do? What is the context for our enterprise? And that might be easy if you’re dealing with a physical thing. If you build a car, you make cars to be driven on the road. there’ll be a driver and maybe passengers in the car, there’ll be other road users around you, pedestrians, etc. with the physical system, it’s relatively easy with a bit of imagination and a bit of effort to think about who’s involved. But of course, not just use, but maintenance as well. Maybe it’s got to go into a garage for a service etc, how do we make things accessible for maintainers?

And then we move on to Concept Development. We might need to do some research, gather some information, think about previous systems or related systems and learn from them. We might have to consult with some people who are going to be affected, some stakeholders, who are going to be affected by this enterprise. We put all of that together and use it to help us identify hazards. Again, if we’re talking about a physical system, say if you make a new model of car, it’s probably not that different from the previous model of a car that you designed. But of course, every so often you do encounter something that is novel, that hasn’t been done before, or maybe you’re designing something that is virtual like software and software is intangible and with intangible things it’s harder to do this. It requires a bit more effort and more imagination. It can be done, don’t be frightened of it but it does require a bit more forethought and a bit more effort and imagination than is perhaps the case with something simple and familiar like a car.

Moving on in the life cycle we have Design Options. We might think about several different solutions. We might generate some solutions; we might analyse and evaluate the risks of those options before selecting which option we’re going to go with. This doesn’t happen in reality very often, because often we’re designing something that’s familiar or people go, well actually I’m buying a bunch of kit off the shelf, (i.e. a bunch of components) and I’m just putting them together, there is no optioneering to do. That’s actually incorrect, because very often people do optioneering by default, in that they buy the component that is cheap and readily available, but they don’t necessarily say, is the supplier going to provide the safety data that I need that goes along with this component? And maybe the more reputable supplier that does do that is going to charge you more. you need to think about where are you going to end up with all of this and evaluate your options accordingly. And of course, if you are making a system that is purely made from off-the-shelf components, there’s not a lot of design to do, there is just integration.

Well that pushes all your design decisions and all your options much earlier on in the lifecycle, much higher up on the diagram as we see here. we are still making design options and design decisions, but maybe it’s just not as obvious. I’ve seen a lot of projects come unstuck because they just bought something that they like the look of, it appealed to the operators (If you live in an operator driven organisation, you’ll know what I mean).me people buy stuff, because they are magpies and it looks shiny, fun and funky. Then they buy it and people like me come along and start asking awkward questions about how are you going to demonstrate that this thing is safe to use and that you can put it in service? And then, of course, it doesn’t always end well if you don’t think about these things up front.

So, moving on to Design Synthesis. We’ll select a solution, put stuff together, work on controlling the risks in the system that we are building. I know it says eliminating and control risks, if you can eliminate risks that’s great, very often though you can’t. we have to deal with the risks that we cannot get rid of and there are usually some risks in whatever you’re dealing with.

Then we get to Design Completion, where we implement the design, where we put it together and see if it does come together in the real world as we envisaged it. That doesn’t always happen. Then we have got to test it and see whether it does what it’s supposed to do. We’re normally pretty good at testing it for that, because if you set out requirements for what it’s supposed to do, then you’ve got something to test against. And of course, if you’re trying to sell a product or service or you’re trying to get regulators or customers to buy into this thing, it’s got to do what you said it’s going to do. there’s a big incentive to test the thing to make sure it does what it should do. We’re not always so good at testing it to make sure that it doesn’t do what it shouldn’t do. That can be a bigger problem space depending on what you’re doing. And that is often the trick and that’s where safety get involved. The Requirements Engineers, Systems Engineers are great at saying, yeah, here’s the requirements test against the requirements. And then it’s the safety people that come along and say, oh, by the way, you need to make sure that it doesn’t blow up, catch fire, get so hot that you can burn people. You need to eliminate the sharp edges. You need to make sure that people don’t get electrocuted when operating or maintaining this thing or disposing of it. You must make sure they don’t get poisoned by any chemicals that have been built into the thing. Even thinking about if I had an accident in the vehicle, or whatever it is that has been damaged or destroyed, and I’ve now got a debris spread across the place, how do we clear that up? For some systems that can be a very challenging problem.

Ergonomics & Work Design

So, we’re going to move on now to a different subject, and a very important subject in safe design. I think this is one of the great things about safe design and good work design in Australia – that it incorporates ergonomics. we need to think about the human interaction with the system, as well as the technical design itself, and I think that’s very important. It’s something that is very easy, especially for technical people, to miss. As engineers some of us love diving into the detail, that’s where we feel comfortable, that’s what we want to do, and then maybe we miss sometimes the big picture – somebody is actually going to use this thing and make it work. we need to think about all of our workers to make sure that they stay healthy and safe at work. We need to think about how they are going to physically interact with the system, etc. It may not be just the physical system that we’re designing, but of course, the work processes that go around it, which is important.

It is worth pointing out that in the UK I’m used to a narrow definition of ergonomics. I’m used to a definition of ergonomics that’s purely about the physical way that humans interact with the system. Can they do so safely and comfortably? Can they do repetitive tasks without getting injured? That includes anthropomorphic aspects, where we think about the variation in size of human beings, different sex’s, different races. Also, how do people fit in the machine or the vehicle or interact with it. But, the way that in Australia we talk about ergonomics is it’s a much bigger picture than that. I would say don’t just think about ergonomics, think about human factors. It’s the science of people working. let’s understand human capabilities and apply that knowledge in the design of equipment and tools and systems and ways of working that we expect the human to use. Humans are pretty clever beasts in many ways and we’re still very good at things that a lot of machines are just not very good at. we need to design stuff which compliments the human being and helps the human being to succeed, rather than just optimising technical design in isolation. And this quotation is from the ARPANSA definition because it was the best one that I could find in Australia. I will no doubt talk about human factors another time in some depth.

Responsibilities

Under the law, (this is tailored for Australian law, but a lot of this is still good principles that are applicable anyway) different groups and individuals have responsibilities for safe design. Those who manage the design and the technical stuff directly and those who make resourcing decisions. For example, we can think about building architects, industrial designers, drafts people who create the design. Individuals who make design decisions at any lifecycle phase, that could be a wide range of people and of course not just technical people, but stakeholders who make decisions about how people are employed, how people are to interact with these systems, how they are to maintain it and dispose of it, etc. And of course, work health and safety professionals themselves. there’s a wide range of stakeholders involved here potentially. Also, anybody who alters the design, and it may be that we’re talking about a physical alteration to design or maybe we’re just using a piece of kit in a different context. we’re using a machine or a process or piece of software that was designed to do X, and we’re actually using it to do Y, which is more common than you might think. if we are not putting an existing design in a different context, which was never envisaged by the original designers, we need to think about the implications of both the environment on the design and the design on the environment and the human beings mixed up working in both. There’s a lot of accidents caused by modifying bits of kit, some might call it a signature accident in the U.K.: the Flixborough Chemical Plant explosion. That was one of the things that led to the creation of Molten Health and Safety in the UK and that was caused by people modifying a design and not fully realising the implications of what they were doing. Of course, the result was a gigantic explosion and lots of dead bodies. Hopefully it won’t always be so dramatic the things that we’re looking at, but nevertheless, people do ask designs to do some weird stuff.

If we want safe design, we can get it more effectively and more efficiently when people get together who control and influence outcomes and who make these decisions so that they collaborate on building safety into the design rather than trying to add on afterwards, which in my experience never goes well. We want to get people together, think about these things up front where it’s maybe a desktop exercise or it’s a meeting somewhere. It requires some people to attend the meeting and prepare for it and so on, and we need records, but that’s cheap compared to later design stages. When we’re talking about industrial plants or something that’s going to be mass produced, making decisions later is always going to be more costly and less effective and therefore it’s going to be less popular and harder to justify. get in and do it early while you still can. There’s some good guidance on all this stuff on who is responsible.

There’s the Principles of Good Work Design Handbook, which is created by Safe Work Australia and it’s also on the Safety Artisan Website (I gained permission to reproduce that) and there’s a model Code of Practice for safe design of structures. There was going to be a model Code of Practice for the safe design of plants, but that never became a Code of Practice, that’s just guidance. Nevertheless, there is a lot of good stuff in there. And there’s the Work, Health and Safety Regulations. And incidentally, there’s also a lot of good guidance on Major Hazard Facilities available. Major Hazard Facilities are anywhere where you store large amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals. However, the safety principles that are in the guidance for the MHF is very good and is generally applicable not just for chemical safety, but for any large undertaking where you could hurt a lot of people on that. MHF guidance I believe was originally inspired by the COMAH regulations in the UK, again which came from a major industrial disaster, Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea which caught fire and killed 167 people. It was a big fire. if you’ve got an enterprise where you could see a mass casualty situation, you’ll get a lot more guidance from the MHF stuff that’s really aimed at preventing industrial sized accidents. there’s lots of good stuff available to help us.

Design for Plant

So, examples of things that we should consider. We need to, (and I don’t think this will be any great surprise to you) think about all phases of the life cycle, I think we banged on about that enough. Whether it be plant (waste plant in this case), whatever it might be, from design and manufacture or right through to disposal. Can we put the plant together? Can we erect it or what structure and we install it? Can we facilitate safe use again? Again, thinking about the physical characteristics of your users, but not just physical, think about the cognitive thinking of your users. If we’re making control system, can the users use it to practically to exploit the plant for the purpose it was meant for whilst staying safe? What can the operator actually do, what can we expect them to perform successfully and reliably time after time because we want this stuff to keep on working for a long, long time, in order to make money or to do whatever it is we want to do. And we also need to think about the environment in which the plant will be used – very important.

Some more examples. Think about intended use and reasonably foreseeable misuse. If you know that a piece of kit tends to get misused for certain things, then either design against it or give the operator a better way of doing it. A really strange example, apparently the designers of a particular assault rifle knew that the soldiers tended to use a bit of the rifle as a can opener or to do stuff like that or to open beer bottles, so they incorporated a bottle opener in the design so that the soldiers would use that rather than damage the assault rifle opening bottles of beer. A crazy example there but I think it’s memorable. we have to consider by law intended use, if you go to the W.H.S lesson, you’ll see that’s written right through the duties of everybody, reasonably foreseeable misuse I don’t think is a hard requirement in every case, but it’s still a sensible thing to do.

Think about the difficulties that workers might face doing repairs or maintenance? Again, sorry, I banged on about that, I came from a maintenance world originally, so I’m very used to those kinds of challenges. And consider what could go wrong. Again, we’re getting back into classic design safety here. Think about the failure modes of your plant. Well, ideally, we always wanted a fail-safe, but if we can’t do that, well, how can we warn people? How can we make sure we minimise the risk if something goes wrong and if a foreseeable hazard occurs? And by foreseeable, I’m not just saying, well we shut ourselves in a darkened room and we couldn’t think of anything, we need to look at real world examples of similar pieces of kit. Look at real world history, because there’s often an awful lot of learning out there that we can exploit, if only we bother to Google it or look it up in some way. As I think it was Bismarck, the great German leader said only a fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. that’s what we try and do in safety.

Product Lifecycle

Moving onto life cycle, this is a key concept. Again, we gone on and on and on about this. We need to control risks, not just for use, but during construction and manufacture in transit, when it’s being commissioned and tested and used and operated, when it’s being repaired, maintained, cleaned or modified. And then at the end of, I say the end of life, it may not be end of life when it’s being decommissioned. maybe a decommissioning kit, moving it to a new site or maybe a new owner has bought it. we need to be able to safely take it upon move and put it back together again. And of course, by that stage, we may have lost the original packaging. we may have to think quite carefully about how we do this, or maybe we can’t fully disassemble it as we did during the original installation. maybe we’ve got to move an awkward bit of kit around. And then at the end of life, how are we going to dismantle it or demolish it? Are we going to dispose of it, or ideally recycle it? Hopefully if we haven’t built in anything too nasty or too difficult to recycle, we can do that. that would be a good thing.

It’s worth reminding ourselves, we do get a safer product that is better for downstream users if we eliminate and minimise those hazards as early as we can. as I said before, in these early phases, there’s more scope in order to design out stuff without compromising the design, without putting limitations on what it can do. Whereas often when you’re adding safety in, so often that is achieved only at a cost in terms of it limits what the users can do or maybe you can’t run the plant at full capacity or whatever it might be, which is clearly undesirable. designers must have a good understanding of the lifecycle of their kit and so do those people who will interact with it and the environment in which it’s used. Again, if you’ve listened to me talking about our system safety concepts we hammer this point about it’s not just the plant it’s what you use it for, the people who will use it and the environment in which it is used. especially for complex things, we need to take all those things into account. And it’s not a trivial exercise to do this.

Then thirdly, as we go through the product life cycle, we may discover new risks, and this does happen. People make assumptions during the concept and design phase and fair enough you must make assumptions sometimes in order to get anything done. But those assumptions don’t always turn out to be completely correct or something gets missed, we missed some aspect often. It’s the thing you didn’t anticipate that often gets you. as we go through the lifecycle, we can further improve safety if people who have control over decisions and actions that are taken incorporate health and safety considerations at every stage and actually proactively look at whether we can make things better or whether something has occurred that we didn’t anticipate and therefore that needs to be looked into. Another good principle that doesn’t always happen, we shouldn’t proceed to the next stage in the life cycle until we have completed our design reviews, we have thought about health and safety along with everything else, and those who are control have had a chance to consider everything together. And if they’re happy with it, to approve it and it moves on. it’s a very good illustration. Again, it will come as no surprise to many listeners there are a lot of projects out there that either don’t put in design reviews at all or you see design reviews being rushed. Lip service is paid to them very often because people forget the design reviews are there to review the design and to make sure it’s fit for purpose and safe and all the other good things, and we just get obsessed with getting through those design reviews, whether we’re the purchaser, whether we’re just keen to get on with the job and the schedule must be maintained at all costs. Or if you’re the supplier, you want to get through those reviews because there’s a payment milestone attached to them. there’s a lot of temptation to rush these things. Often, rushing these things just results in more trouble further downstream. I know it takes a lot of guts, particularly early in a project to say, no, we’re not ready for this design review, we need to do some more work so that we can get through this properly. That’s a big call to make, often because not a lot of people are going to like you for making that call, but it does need to.

Benefits of Safe Design

So, let’s talk about the benefits. These are not my estimates, these are Safe Work Australia’s words, so they feel that from what they’ve seen in Australia and now surveying safety performance elsewhere, I suspect as well, that building safety into a plant can save you up to 10 percent of its cost. Whether it be through, an example here is reductions in holdings of hazardous materials, reduce need for personal protective equipment, reduce need filled testing and maintenance, and that’s a that’s a good point. Very often we see large systems, large enterprises brought in to being without sufficient consideration of these things, and people think only about the capital costs of getting the kit into service. Now, if you’re spending millions or even possibly billions on a large infrastructure project, of course you will focus on the upfront costs for that infrastructure. And of course, you are focused on getting that stuff into service as soon as possible so you can start earning money to pay for the capital costs of it. But it’s also worth thinking about safety upfront. A lot of other design disciplines as well, of course, and making sure that you’re not building yourself a life cycle, a lifetime full of pain, doing maintenance and testing that, to be honest, you really don’t want to be doing, but because you didn’t design something out, you end up with no choice. And so, we can hopefully eliminate or minimise those direct costs with unsafe design, which can be considerable rework, compensation, insurance, environmental clean-up. You can be sued by the government for criminal transgressions and you can be sued by those who’ve been the relatives of the dead, the injured, the inconvenienced, those who’ve been moved off their land. And these things will impact on parties downstream, not the designers. And in fact, often but not always, just the those who bought product and used it. there’s a lot of incentive out there to minimise your liability and to get it right up front and to be able to demonstrate they got it right up front. Particularly if you’re a designer or a manufacturer and you’re worried that some of your users are maybe not as professionals and conscientious using your stuff as you would like because it’s still got your name and your company logo plastered all over it.

I don’t think there’s anything new in here. there’s many benefits or we see the direct benefits. We’ve prevented injury and disease and that’s good. Not just your own, but other peoples. We can improve usability, very often if you improve safety through improving human factors and ergonomics, you’re going to get a more usable product that people like using, it is going to be more popular. Maybe you’ll sell more. You’ll improve productivity. those who are paying for the output are happy. You’ll reduce costs, not only reduce costs, (through life I’m talking about you might have to spend a little bit more money upfront), we can actually better predict and manage operations because we’re not having so many outages due to incidents or accidents. Also, we can demonstrate compliance with legislation which will help you plug the kit in the first place, but also it is necessary if you’re going to get past a regulator or indeed if you don’t want to get sent to jail for contravening the WHS Act. And benefits, well, innovation. I have to say innovation is a double-edged sword because some places love innovation, you’ll be very popular if you innovate. Other industries hate innovation and you will not be popular if you innovate. That last bullet, I’m not so sure it’s about innovation. Safety design, I don’t necessarily think it demands new thinking, it just demands thinking. Because most things that I’ve seen that are preventable, that have gone wrong and could have been stopped, it only required a little bit of thought and a little bit of imagination and a little bit of learning from the past, not just innovating the future.

Legal Obligations

So that brings us neatly on to think about our legal obligations. In Australia, and in other countries, there will be similar obligations, work, health and safety law impose duties on lots of people from designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers, anybody who puts the stuff together, puts it up, modifies it, disposes of it. These obligations, as it says, will vary dependent on state or territory or whether Commonwealth W.H.S applies. But if it’s WHS, it’s all based on the model WHS from SafeWork Australia, so it will be very similar. In the W.H.S lesson, I talk about what these duties are and what you must do to meet them. You will be pleased to know that the guidance in safe design is in lock step with those requirements. this is all good stuff, not because I’m saying it but because I’m actually showing you what’s come out of the statutory authority.

Yes, these obligations may vary, we talk about that quite a lot and in other sessions. Those who make decisions, and not just technical people, but those who control the finances, have duties under WHS law. Again, go and see the WHS lesson than the talks about the duties, particularly the duties of senior management officers and due diligence. And there are specific safety due diligence requirements in WHS, which are very well written, very easy to read and understand. there’s no excuse for not looking at this stuff, it is very easy to see what you’re supposed to do and how to stay on the right side of the law. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re an employer, self-employed, if you control a workplace or not, there are duties on designers upstream who will never go near the workplace that the kit is actually used in. if a client has some building or structure designed and built for leasing, they become the owner of the building and they may well retain health and safety duties for the lifetime of that building if it’s used as a workplace or to accommodate workers as well.

Recap

I just want to briefly recap on what we’ve what we’ve heard. Safe design, I would say the big lesson that I’ve learned in my career is that safe design is not just a technical activity for the designers. I’ve worked in many organisations where the pedigree, the history of the organisation was that you had. technical risks were managed over here, and human or operational risks well managed over here, and there was a great a gulf between them, they never they never interacted very much. There was a sort of handover point where they would chuck the kit over the wall to the users and say, there, get on with it, and if you have an accident, it’s your fault because you’re stupid and you didn’t understand my piece of kit. And similarly got the operator saying all those technical people, they’ve got no idea how we use the kit or what we’re trying to do here, the big picture, they give us kit that is not suitable or that we have to misuse in order to get it to do the job.

So, if you have these two teams, players separately not interacting and not cooperating, it’s a mess. And certainly, in Australia, there is very explicit requirements in the law and regulations and the whole code of practice on consultation, communication and cooperation. these two units have got to come together, these two sides of the operation have got to come together in order to make the whole thing work. And WHS law does not differentiate between different types of risk. There is just risk to people, so you cannot hide behind the fact that, well I do technical risk I don’t think about how people will use it, you’ve just broken the law. you’ve got to think about the big picture, and you know, we can’t keep going on and on in our silence. A little bit of heart to heart, but that really, I think, is the value add from all of this. The great thing about this design guidance is that it encourages you to think through life, it encourages you to think about who is going to use it and it encourages you to think about the environment. And you can quite cheaply and quite quickly, you could make some dramatic improvements in safety by thinking about these things.

I’ve met a lot of technical people, if a risk control measure isn’t technical, if it isn’t highly complicated and involves clever engineering, then some people have got a tendency to look down their nose at it. What we need to be doing is looking at how we reduce risk and what the benefits are in terms of risk reduction, and it might be a really very simple thing that seems almost trivial to a technical expert that actually delivers the safety, and that’s what we’ve got to think about not about having a clever technical solution necessarily. If we must have a clever technical solution to make it safe, well, so be it. But, we’d quite like to avoid that most of the time if we can.

Australian Approach

Just to bring this to a close. Australia in the 10 years to 2022 has got certain targets. we’ve got seven national action areas, and safe by design or safe design is one of them. As I’ve said several times, Australian legislation requires us to consult, cooperate and coordinate, so far as is reasonably practicable. And we need to work together rather than chuck problems over the wall to somebody else. You might think you delegated responsibility to somebody else, but actually if you’re an officer of the person or conducting the business or undertaking, then you cannot ditch all of your responsibilities, so you need to think very carefully about what’s being done in your name because legally it can come back to you. you can’t just assume that somebody else is doing it and will do a reasonable job, it’s your duty to ensure that it is done, that you’ve provided the resources and that it is actually happening.

And so, what we want to do, in this 10-year period, is we want to achieve a real reduction, 30% reduction in serious injuries nationwide in that 10-year period and reduce work related fatalities by at least a fifth. these are specific and valuable targets, they’re real-world targets. This is not an academic exercise, it’s about reducing the body count and the number of people who end up in a hospital, blinded or missing limbs or whatever. it’s important stuff. And as it says, SafeWork Australia and all the different regulators have been working together with industry unions and special interest groups in order to make this all happen. that’s all excellent stuff.

End: Safe Design

And it just remains for me to say that most of the text that I’ve shown you is from the Safe Work Australia website, and that’s been reproduced under license, under Creative Commons license. You can see the full details on the safetyartisan.com website. And just to point out that the words, this presentation itself are copyright of The Safety Artisan and I just realised I drafted this in 2019, it’s copyright 2020, but never mind, I started writing this in 2019.

Now, if you want more videos please subscribe to the Safety Artisan channel on YouTube.  And that is the end of the presentation, so thank you very much for listening and watching and from the safety artisan, I just say, I wish you a successful and safe 2020, goodbye.

Categories
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.

Back to the WHS Topic Page.

Categories
Start Here System Safety

System Safety Principles

In this 45-minute video, I discuss System Safety Principles, as set out by the US Federal Aviation Authority in their System Safety Handbook. Although this was published in 2000, the principles still hold good (mostly) and are worth discussing. I comment on those topics where modern practice has moved on, and those jurisdictions where the US approach does not sit well.

This is the ten-minute preview of the full, 45-minute video.

System Safety Principles: Topics

  • Foundational statement
  • Planning
  • Management Authority
  • Safety Precedence
  • Safety Requirements
  • System Analyses Assumptions & Criteria
  • Emphasis & Results
  • MA Responsibilities
  • Software hazard analysis
  • An Effective System Safety Program

System Safety Principles: Transcript

Click Here for Transcript

Hi everyone, and welcome to the safety artisan where you will find professional pragmatic, and impartial advice on all thing’s safety. I’m Simon and welcome to the show today, which is recorded on the 23rd of September 2019. Today we’re going to talk about System safety concepts. A couple of days ago I recorded a short presentation on this, which is on the Patreon website and is also on YouTube.  Today we are going to talk about the same concepts but in much more depth.

Hence, this video is only available on the ‘Safety Artisan’ Patreon page. In the short session, we took some time picking apart the definition of ‘safe’. I’m not going to duplicate that here, so please feel free to go have a look. We said that to demonstrate that something was safe, we had to show that risk had been reduced to a level that is acceptable in whatever jurisdiction we’re working in.

And in this definition, there are a couple of tests that are appropriate that the U.K., but perhaps not elsewhere. We also must meet safety requirements. And we must define Scope and bound the system that we’re talking about a Physical system or an intangible system like a. A computer program or something. We must define what we’re doing with it what it’s being used for. And within which operating environment within which context is being used.  And if we could do all those things, then we can objectively say or claim that this system is safe. OK.  that’s very briefly that.

Topics

What we’re going to talk about a lot more Topics. We’re going to talk about risk accidents. The cause has a consequence sequence. They talk about requirements and. Spoiler alert. What I consider to be the essence of system safety. And then we’ll get into talking about the process. Of demonstrating safety, hazard identification, and analysis.

Risk Reduction and estimation. Risk Evaluation. And acceptance. And then pulling it all together. Risk management safety management. And finally, reporting, making an argument that the system is safe supporting with evidence. And summarizing all of that in a written report. This is what we do, albeit in different ways and calling it different things.

Risk

Onto the first topic. Risk and harm.  Our concept of risk. It’s a combination of the likelihood and severity of harm. Generally, we’re talking about harm. To people. Death. Injury. Damage to help. Now we might also choose to consider any damage to property in the environment. That’s all good. But I’m going to concentrate on. Harm. To people. Because. Usually. That’s what we’re required to do. By the law. And there are other laws covering the environment and property sometimes. That. We’re not going to talk.  just to illustrate this point. This risk is a combination of Severity and likelihood.

We’ve got a very crude. Risk table here. With a likelihood along the top. And severity. Downside. And we might. See that by looking at the table if we have a high likelihood and high severity. Well, that’s a high risk. Whereas if we have Low Likelihood and low severity. We might say that’s a low risk. And then. In between, a combination of high and low we might say that’s medium. Now, this is a very crude and simple example. Deliberately.

You will see risk matrices like this. In. Loads of different standards. And you may be required to define your own for a specific system, there are lots of variations on this but they’re all basically. Doing this thing and we’re illustrating. How we determine the level of risk. By that combination of severity. And likely, I think a picture is worth a thousand words. Moving online to the accident. We’re talking about (in this standard) an unintended event that causes harm.

Accidents, Sequences and Consequences

Not all jurisdictions just consider accidental event some consider deliberate as well. We’ll leave that out. A good example of that is work health and safety in Australia but no doubt we’ll get to that in another video sometime. And the accident sequences the progression of events. That results in an accident that leads to an. Now we’re going to illustrate the accident sequence in a moment but before we get there. We need to think about cousins.  here we’ve got a hazard physical situation of state system. Often following some initiating event that may lead to an accident, a thing that may cause harm.

And then allied with that we have the idea of consequences. Of outcomes or an outcome. Resulting from. An. Event. Now that all sounds a bit woolly doesn’t it, let’s illustrate that. Hopefully, this will make it a lot clearer. Now. I’ve got a sequence here. We have. Causes. That might lead to a hazard. And the hazard might lead to different consequences. And that’s the accident. See. Now in this standard, they didn’t explicitly define causes.

Cause, Hazard and Consequence

They’re just called events. But most mostly we will deal with causes and consequences in system safety. And it’s probably just easier to implement it. Whether or not you choose to explicitly address every cause. That’s often option step. But this is the accident Sequence that we’re looking at. And they this sort of funnels are meant to illustrate the fact that they may be many causes for one hazard. And one has it may lead to many consequences on some of those consequences. Maybe. No harm at all.

We may not actually have an accident. We may get away with it. We may have a. Hazard. And. Know no harm may befall a human. And if we take all of this together that’s the accident sequence. Now it’s worth. Reiterating. That just because a hazard exists it does not necessarily need. Lead to harm. But. To get to harm. We must have a hazard; a hazard is both necessary and sufficient. To lead to harmful consequences. OK.

Hazards: an Example

And you can think of a hazard as an accident waiting to happen. You can think of it in lots of different ways, let’s think about an example, the hazard might be. Somebody slips. Okay well while walking and all. That slip might be caused by many things it might be a wet surface. Let’s say it’s been raining, and the pavement is slippery, or it might be icy. It might be a spillage of oil on a surface, or you’d imagine something slippery like ball bearings on a surface.

So, there’s something that’s caused the surface to become slippery. A person slips – that’s the hazard. Now the person may catch themselves; they may not fall over. They may suffer no injury at all. Or they might fall and suffer a slight injury; and, very occasionally, they might suffer a severe injury. It depends on many different factors. You can imagine if you slipped while going downstairs, you’re much more likely to be injured.

And younger, healthy, fit people are more likely to get over a fall without being injured, whereas if they’re very elderly and frail, a fall can quite often result in a broken bone. If an elderly person breaks a bone in a fall the chances of them dying within the next 12 months are quite high. They’re about one in three.

So, the level of risk is sensitive to a lot of different factors. To get an accurate picture, an accurate estimate of risk, we’re going to need to factor in all those things. But before we get to that, we’ve already said that hazard need not lead to harm. In this standard, we call it an incident, where a hazard has occurred; it could have progressed to an accident but didn’t, we call this an incident. A near miss.

We got away with it. We were lucky. Whatever you want to call it. We’ve had an incident but no he’s been hurt. Hopefully, that incident is being reported, which will help us to prevent an actual accident in future.  That’s another very useful concept that reminds us that not all hazards result in harm. Sometimes there will be no accident. There will be no harm simply because we were lucky, or because someone present took some action to prevent harm to themselves or others.

Mitigation Strategies (Controls)

But we would really like to deliberately design out or avoid Hazards if we can. What we need is a mitigation strategy, we need a measure or measures that, when we put them into practice, reduce that risk. Normally, we call these things controls. Again, now we’ve illustrated this; we’ve added to the funnels. We’ve added some mitigation strategies and they are the dark blue dashed lines.

And they are meant to represent Barriers that prevent the accident sequence progressing towards harm. And they have dashed lines because very few controls are perfect, you know everything’s got holes in it. And we might have several of them. But usually, no control will cover all possible causes; and very few controls will deal with all possible consequences.  That’s what those barriers are meant to illustrate.

That idea that picture will be very useful to us later. When we are thinking about how we’re going to estimate and evaluate risk overall and what risk reduction we have achieved. And how we talk about justifying what we’ve done is good. That’s a very powerful illustration. Well, let’s move on to safety requirements.

Safety Requirements

Now. I guess it’s no great surprise to say that requirements, once met, can contribute directly to the safety of the system. Maybe we’ve got a safety requirement that says all cars will be fitted with seatbelts. Let’s say we’ll be required to wear a seatbelt.  That makes the system safer.

Or the requirement might be saying we need to provide evidence of the safety of the system. And, the requirement might refer to a process that we’ve got to go through or a set kind of evidence that we’ve got to provide. Safety requirements can cover either or both of these.

The Essence of System Safety

Requirements. Covering. Safety of the system or demonstrating that the system is safe. Should give us assurance, which is adequate confidence or justified confidence. Supported with evidence by following a process. And we’ll talk more about process. We meet safety requirements. We get assurance that we’ve done the right thing. And this really brings us to the essence of what system safety is, we’ve got all these requirements – everything is a requirement really – including the requirement. To demonstrate risk reduction.

And those requirements may apply to the system itself, the product. Or they may provide, or they may apply to the process that generates the evidence or the evidence. Putting all those things together in an organized and orderly way really is the essence of system safety, this is where we are addressing safety in a systematic way, in an orderly way. In an organized way. (Those words will keep coming back). That’s the essence of system safety, as opposed to the day-to-day task of keeping a workplace safe.

Maybe by mopping up spills and providing handrails, so people don’t slip over. Things like that. We’re talking about a more sophisticated level of safety. Because we have a more complex problem a more challenging problem to deal with. That’s system safety. We will start on the process now, and we begin with hazard identification and analysis; first, we need to identify and list the hazards, the Hazards and the accidents associated with the system.

We’ve got a system, physical or not. What could go wrong? We need to think about all the possibilities. And then having identified some hazards we need to start doing some analysis, we follow a process. That helps us to delve into the detail of those hazards and accidents. And to define and understand the accident sequences that could result. In fact, in doing the analysis we will very often identify some more hazards that we hadn’t thought of before, it’s not a straight-through process it tends to be an iterative process.

Risk Reduction

And what ultimately what we’re trying to do is reduce risk, we want a systematic process, which is what we’re describing now. A systematic process of reducing risk. And at some point, we must estimate the risk that we’re left with. Before and after all these controls, these mitigations, are applied. That’s risk estimation.  Again, there’s that systematic word, we’re going to use all the available information to estimate the level of risk that we’ve got left. Recalling that risk is a combination of severity and likelihood.

Now as we get towards the end of the process, we need to evaluate risk against set criteria. And those criteria vary depending on which country you’re operating in or which industry we’re in: what regulations apply and what good practice is relevant. All those things can be a factor. Now, in this case, this is a U.K. standard, so we’ve got two tests for evaluating risk. It’s a systematic determination using all the available evidence. And it should be an objective evaluation as far as we can make it.

Risk Evaluation

We should use certain criteria on whether a risk can be accepted or not. And in the U.K. there are two tests for this. As we’ve said before, there is ALARP, the ‘As Low As is Reasonably Practicable’ test, which says: Have we put into practice all reasonably practicable controls? (To reduce risk, this is risk reduction target). And then there’s an absolute level of risk to consider as well. Because even if we’ve taken all practical measures, the risk remaining might still be so high as to be unacceptable to the law.

Now that test is specific to the U.K, so we don’t have to worry too much about it. The point is there are objective criteria, which we must test ourselves or measure ourselves against. An evaluation that will pop out the decision, as to whether a further risk reduction is necessary if the risk level is still too high. We might conclude that are still reasonably practicable measures that we could take. Then we’ve got to do it.

We have an objective decision-making process to say: have we done enough to reduce risk? And if not, we need to do some more until we get to the point where we can apply the test again and say yes, we’ve done enough. Right, that’s rather a long-winded way of explaining that. I apologize, but it is a key issue and it does trip up a lot of people.

Risk Acceptance

Now, once we’ve concluded that we’ve done enough to reduce risk and no further risk reduction is necessary, somebody should be in a position to accept that risk.  Again, it’s a systematic process, by which relevant stakeholders agree that risks may be accepted. In other words, somebody with the right authority has said yes, we’re going to go ahead with the system and put it into practice, implement it. The resulting risks to people are acceptable, providing we apply the controls.

And we accept that responsibility.  Those people who are signing off on those risks are exposing themselves and/or other people to risk. Usually, they are employees, but sometimes members of the public as well, or customers. If you’re going to put customers in an airliner you’re saying yes there is a level of risk to passengers, but that the regulator, or whoever, has deemed [the risk] to be acceptable. It’s a formal process to get those risks accepted and say yes, we can proceed. But again, that varies greatly between different countries, between different industries. Depending on what regulations and laws and practices apply. (We’ll talk about different applications in another section.)

Risk Management

Now putting all this together we call this risk management.  Again, that wonderful systematic word: a systematic application of policies, procedures and practices to these tasks. We have hazard identification, analysis, risk estimation, risk evaluation, risk reduction & risk acceptance. It’s helpful to demonstrate that we’ve got a process here, where we go through these things in order. Now, this is a simplified picture because it kind of implies that you just go through the process once.

With a complex system, you go through the process at least once. We may identify further hazards, when we get into Hazard Analysis and estimating risk. In the process of trying to do those things, even as late as applying controls and getting to risk acceptance. We may discover that we need to do additional work. We may try and apply controls and discover the controls that we thought were going to be effective are not effective.

Our evaluation of the level of risk and its acceptability is wrong because it was based on the premise that controls would be effective, and we’ve discovered that they’re not, so we must go back and redo some work. Maybe as we go through, we even discover Hazards that we hadn’t anticipated before. This can and does happen, it’s not necessarily a straight-through process. We can iterate through this process. Perhaps several times, while we are moving forward.

Safety Management

OK, Safety Management. We’ve gone to a higher level really than risk because we’re thinking about requirements as well as risk. We’re going to apply organization, we’re going to applying management principles to achieve safety with high confidence. For the first time we’ve introduced this idea of confidence in what we’re doing. Well, I say the first time, this is insurance isn’t it? Assurance, having justified confidence or appropriate confidence, because we’ve got the evidence. And that might be product evidence too we might have tested the product to show that it’s safe.

We might have analysed it. We might have said well we’ve shown that we follow the process that gives us confidence that our evidence is good. And we’ve done all the right things and identified all the risks.  That’s safety management. We need to put that in a safety management system, we’ve got a defined organization structure, we have defined processes, procedures and methods. That gives us direction and control of all the activities that we need to put together in a combination. To effectively meet safety requirements and safety policy.

And our safety tests, whatever they might be. More and more now we’re thinking about top-level organization and planning to achieve the outcomes we need. With a complex system, with a complex operating environment and a complex application.

Safety Planning

Now I’ll just mention planning. Okay, we need a safety management plan that defines the strategy: how we’re going to get there, how are we going to address safety. We need to document that safety management system for a specific project. Planning is very important for effective safety. Safety is very vulnerable to poor planning. If a project is badly planned or not planned at all, it becomes very difficult to Do safety effectively, because we are dependent on the process, on following a rigorous process to give us confidence that all results are correct.  If you’ve got a project that is a bit haphazard, that’s not going to help you achieve the objectives.

Planning is important. Now the bit of that safety plan that deals with timescales, milestones and other date-related information. We might refer to as a safety program. Now being a UK Definition, British English has two spellings of program. The double-m-e version of programme. Applies to that time-based progression, or milestone-based progression.

Whereas in the US and in Australia, for example, we don’t have those two words we just have the one word, ‘program’. Which Covers everything: computer programs, a programme of work that might have nothing to do with or might not be determined by timescales or milestones. Or one that is. But the point is that certain things may have to happen at certain points in time or before certain milestones. We may need to demonstrate safety before we are allowed to proceed to tests and trials or before we are allowed to put our system into service.

Demonstrating Safety

We’ve got to demonstrate that Safety has been achieved before we expose people to risk.  That’s very simple. Now, finally, we’re almost at the end. Now we need to provide a demonstration – maybe to a regulator, maybe to customers – that we have achieved safety.  This standard uses the concept of a safety case. The safety case is basically, imagine a portfolio full of evidence.  We’ve got a structured argument to put it all together. We’ve got a body of the evidence that supports the argument.

It provides a Compelling, Comprehensible (or understandable) and valid case that a system is safe. For a given application or use, in a given Operating environment.  Really, that definition of what a safety case is harks back to that meaning of safety.  We’ve got something that really hits the nail on the head. And we might put all of that together and summarise it in a safety case report. That summarises those arguments and evidence, and documents progress against the Safe program.

Remember I said our planning was important. We started off saying that we need to do this, that the other in order to achieve safety. Hopefully, in the end, in the safety report we’ll be able to state that we’ve done exactly that. We did do all those things. We did follow the process rigorously. We’ve got good results. We’ve got a robust safety argument. With evidence to support it. At the end, it’s all written up in a report.

Documenting Safety

Now that isn’t always going to be called a safety case report; it might be called a safety assessment report or a design justification report. There are lots of names for these things. But they all tend to do the same kind of thing, where they pull together the argument as to why the system is safe. The evidence to support the argument, document progress against a plan or some set of process requirements from a standard or a regulator or just good practice in an industry to say: Yes, we’ve done what we were expected to do.

The result is usually that’s what justifies [the system] getting past that milestone. Where the system is going into service and can be used. People can be exposed to those risks, but safely and under control.

Everyone’s a winner, as they say!

Copyright – Creative Commons Licence

Okay. I’ve used a lot of information from the UK government website. I’ve done that in accordance with the terms of its creative commons license, and you can see more about that [here]. We have we complied with that, as we are required to, and to say to you that the information we’ve supplied is under the terms of this license.

More Resources

And for more resources and for more lessons on system safety. And other safe topics. I invite you to visit the safety artisan.com website or to go and look at the videos on Patreon, at my safety artisan page. And that’s www.Patreon.com/SafetyArtisan. Thanks very much for watching. I hope you found that useful.

We’ve covered a lot of information there, but hopefully in a structured way. We’ve repeated the key concepts and you can see that in that standard. The key concepts are consistently defined, and they reinforce each other. In order to get that systematic, disciplined approach to safety, that’s we need.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I hope you enjoyed watching and found that useful. I look forward to talking to you again soon. Please send me some feedback about what you thought about this video and also what you would like to see covered in the future.

Thank you for visiting the Safety Artisan. I look forward to talking to you again soon. Goodbye.

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Categories
Safe Design

Good Work Design

The content of this post is taken from the ‘Principles of Good Work Design’ handbook from Safe Work Australia. The handbook is © Commonwealth of Austr​alia, 2019; this document is covered by a Creative Commons licence (CCBY 4.0) – for full details see here.

Some changes have been made to the guidance in order to improve Search Engine Optimisation and correct minor problems with Figure numbering in the original document. All changes are indicated [thus].

Introduction

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 is underpinned by the principle that well-designed healthy and safe work will allow workers to have more productive lives. This can be more efficiently achieved if hazards and risks are eliminated through good design.

The ten principles of good work design

This handbook contains ten principles which demonstrate how to achieve good design of work and work processes. Each is general in nature so they can be successfully applied to any workplace, business or industry.

The ten principles for good work design are structured into three sections:

  1. Why good work design is important
  2. What should be considered in good work design, and
  3. How good work is designed

These principles are shown in the diagram at Figure 1.

This handbook complements a range of existing resources available to businesses and work health and safety professionals including guidance for the safe design of plant and structures see the Safe Work Australia Website.

Scope of the handbook

This handbook provides information on how to apply the good work design principles to work and work processes to protect workers and others who may be affected by the work. 

It describes how design can be used to set up the workplace, working environment and work tasks to protect the health and safety of workers, taking into account their range of abilities and vulnerabilities, so far as reasonably practicable.

The handbook does not aim to provide advice on managing situations where individual workers may have special requirements such as those with a disability or on a return to work program following an injury or illness. Contact your regulator for further information.

Who should use this handbook?

This handbook should be used by those with a role in designing work and work processes, including:

  • Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) with a primary duty of care under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws.
  • PCBUs who have specific design duties relating to the design of plant, substances and structures including the buildings in which people work.
  • People responsible for designing organisational structures, staffing rosters and systems of work.
  • Professionals who provide expert advice to organisations on work health and safety matters.

Good work design optimises work health and safety, human performance, job satisfaction, and business success.

Information: Experts who provide advice on the design of work may include: engineers, architects, ergonomists, information and computer technology professionals, occupational hygienists, organisational psychologists, human resource professionals, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Figure 1 – Good work design principles

An image of good work design principles

What is ‘good work’?

‘Good work’ is healthy and safe work where the hazards and risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. Good work is also where the work design optimises human performance, job satisfaction and productivity.

Good work contains positive work elements that can:

  • protect workers from harm to their health, safety and welfare
  • improve worker health and wellbeing, and
  • improve business success through higher worker productivity.

What is good work design?

The most effective design process begins at the earliest opportunity during the conceptual and planning phases. At this early stage there is the greatest chance of finding ways to design-out hazards, incorporate effective risk control measures and design-in efficiencies.

Effective design of good work considers:

The work:

  • how work is performed, including the physical, mental and emotional demands of the tasks and activities
  • the task duration, frequency, and complexity, and
  • the context and systems of work.

The physical working environment:

  • the plant, equipment, materials and substances used, and
  • the vehicles, buildings, structures that are workplaces.

The workers:

  • physical, emotional and mental capacities and needs.

Effective design of good work can radically transform the workplace in ways that benefit the business, workers, clients and others in the supply chain.

Failure to consider how work is designed can result in poor risk management and lost opportunities to innovate and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work.

The principles for good work design support duty holders to meet their obligations under the WHS laws and also help them to achieve better business practice generally.

For the purposes of this handbook a work designer is anyone who makes decisions about the design or redesign of work. This may be driven by the desire to improve productivity as well as the health and safety of people who will be doing the work

The WHY Principles

Why is good work design important?

Principle 1: Good work design gives the highest level of protection so far as is reasonably practicable

  • All workers have a right to the highest practicable level of protection against harm to their health, safety and welfare.
  • The primary purpose of the WHS laws is to protect persons from work-related harm so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Harm relates to the possibility that death, injury, illness or disease may result from exposure to a hazard in the short or longer term.
  • Eliminating or minimising hazards at the source before risks are introduced in the workplace is a very effective way of providing the highest level of protection.

Principle 1 refers to the legal duties under the WHS laws. These laws provide the framework to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers and others who might be affected by the work. During the work design process workers and others should be given the highest level of protection against harm that is reasonably practicable.

Prevention of workplace injury and illness

Well-designed work can prevent work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses. The potential risk of harm from hazards in a workplace should be eliminated through good work design.

Only if that is not reasonably practicable, then the design process should minimise hazards and risks through the selection and use of appropriate control measures.

New hazards may inadvertently be created when changing work processes. If the good work design principles are systematically applied, potential hazards and risks arising from these changes can be eliminated or minimised.

Information: Reducing the speed of an inappropriately fast process line will not only reduce production errors, it can diminish the likelihood of a musculoskeletal injury and mental stress.

Principle 2: Good work design enhances health and wellbeing

  • Health is a “state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (World Health Organisation).
  • Designing good work can help improve health over the longer term by improving workers’ musculoskeletal condition, cardiovascular functioning and their mental health.
  • Good work design optimises worker function and improves participation enabling workers to have more productive working lives.

Health benefits

Effective design aims to prevent harm, but it can also positively enhance the health and wellbeing of workers for example, satisfying work and positive social interactions can help improve people’s physical and mental health.

As a general guide, the healthiest workers have been found to be three times more productive than the least healthy (PDF file). It therefore makes good business sense for work design to support people’s health and wellbeing.

Information: Recent research has shown long periods of sitting (regardless of exercise regime) can lead to increased risk of preventable musculoskeletal disorders and chronic diseases such as diabetes. In an office environment, prolonged sitting can be reduced by allowing people to alternate between sitting or standing whilst working.

Principle 3: Good work design enhances business success and productivity

  • Good work design prevents deaths, injuries and illnesses and their associated costs, improves worker motivation and engagement and in the long-term improves business productivity.
  • Well-designed work fosters innovation, quality and efficiencies through effective and continuous improvement.
  • Well-designed work helps manage risks to business sustainability and profitability by making work processes more efficient and effective and by improving product and service quality.

Cost savings and productivity improvements

Designing-out problems before they arise is generally cheaper than making changes after the resulting event, for example by avoiding expensive retrofitting of workplace controls.

Good work design can have direct and tangible cost savings by decreasing disruption to work processes and the costs from workplace injuries and illnesses.

Good work design can also lead to productivity improvements and business sustainability by:

  • allowing organisations to adjust to changing business needs and to streamline work processes by reducing wastage, training and supervision costs
  • improving opportunities for creativity and innovation to solve production issues, reduce errors and improve service and product quality, and
  • making better use of workers’ skills resulting in more engaged and motivated staff willing to contribute greater additional effort.
A diagram of the why principles
[Figure 1.1, Good Work Design Hleath Benefits]

The WHAT Principles

What should be considered by those with design responsibilities?

Principle 4: Good work design addresses physical, biomechanical, cognitive and psychosocial characteristics of work, together with the needs and capabilities of the people involved

  • Good work design addresses the different hazards associated with work e.g. chemical, biological and plant hazards, hazardous manual tasks and aspects of work that can impact on mental health.
  • Work characteristics should be systematically considered when work is designed, redesigned or the hazards and risks are assessed.
  • These work characteristics should be considered in combination and one characteristic should not be considered in isolation.
  • Good work design creates jobs and tasks that accommodate the abilities and vulnerabilities of workers so far as reasonably practicable.

All tasks have key characteristics with associated hazards and risks, as shown in Figure 2 below:

Figure 2 – Key characteristics of work


Hazards and risks associated with tasks are identified and controlled during good work design processes and they should be considered in combination with all hazards and risks in the workplace. This highlights that it is the combination that is important for good work design.

Workers can also be exposed to a number of different hazards from a single task. For example, meat boning is a common task in a meat-processing workplace. This task has a range of potential hazards and risks that need to be managed, e.g. physical, chemical, biological, biomechanical and psychosocial. Good work design means the hazards and risks arising from this task are considered both individually and collectively to ensure the best control solutions are identified and applied.

Good work design can prevent unintended consequences which might arise if task control measures are implemented in isolation from other job considerations. For example, automation of a process may improve production speed and reduce musculoskeletal injuries but increase risk of hearing loss if effective noise control measures are not also considered.

Workers have different needs and capabilities; good work design takes these into account. This includes designing to accommodate them given the normal range of human cognitive, biomechanical and psychological characteristics of the work.

Information: The Australian workforce is changing. It is typically older with higher educational levels, more inclusive of people with disabilities, and more socially and ethnically diverse. Good work design accommodates and embraces worker diversity. It will also help a business become an employer of choice, able to attract and retain an experienced workforce.

Principle 5: Good work design considers the business needs, context and work environment.

  • Good work design is ‘fit for purpose’ and should reflect the needs of the organisation including owners, managers, workers and clients.
  • Every workplace is different so approaches need to be context specific. What is good for one situation cannot be assumed to be good for another, so off-the-shelf solutions may not always suit every situation.
  • The work environment is broad and includes: the physical structures, plant and technology, work layout, organisational design and culture, human resource systems, work health and safety processes and information/control systems.

The business organisational structure and culture, decision making processes, work environment and how resources and people are allocated to the work will directly and indirectly impact on work design and how well and safely the work is done.

The work environment includes the physical structures, plant, and technology. Planning for relocations, refurbishments or when introducing new engineering systems are ideal opportunities for businesses to improve their work designs and avoid foreseeable risks.

These are amongst the most common work changes a business undertakes yet good design during these processes is often quite poorly considered and implemented. An effective design following the processes described in this handbook can yield significant business benefits.

Information: Off the shelf solutions can be explored for some common tasks, however usually design solutions need to be tailored to suit a particular workplace.

Good work design is most effective when it addresses the specific business needs of the individual workplace or business. Typically work design solutions will differ between small and large businesses.

However, all businesses must eliminate or minimise their work health and safety risks so far as reasonably practicable. The specific strategies and controls will vary depending on the circumstances.

The table on the next page demonstrates how to step through the good work design process for small and large businesses.

Table 1 – steps in good work design for large and small businesses

Good design steps In a large business that is downsizing In a small business that is undergoing a refit
Management commitment Senior management make their commitment to good work design explicit ahead of downsizing and may hire external expertise.   The owner tells workers about their commitment to designing-out hazards during the upcoming refit of the store layout to help improve safety and efficiency.  
Consult The consequences of downsizing and how these can be managed are discussed in senior management and WHS committee meetings with appropriate representation from affected work areas.   The owner holds meetings with their workers to identify possible issues ahead of
the refit.  
Identify A comprehensive workload audit is undertaken to clarify opportunities for improvements.   The owner discusses the proposed refit with the architect and builder and gets ideas for dealing with issues raised by workers.  
Assess A cost benefit analysis is undertaken to assess the work design options to manage the downsizing.   The owner, architect and builder jointly discuss the proposed refit and any worker issues directly with workers.   
Control A change management plan is developed and implemented to appropriately structure teams and improve systems of work. Training is provided to support the new work arrangements.   The building refit occurs. Workers are given training and supervision to become familiar with new layout and safe equipment use.  
Review The work redesign process is reviewed against the project aims by senior managers.   The owner checks with the workers that the refit has improved working conditions and efficiency and there are no new issues.  
Improve Following consultation, refinement of the redesign is undertaken if required.   Minor adjustments to the fit out are made if required.  

Principle 6: Good work design is applied along the supply chain and across the operational lifecycle.

  • Good work design should be applied along the supply chain in the design, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal of goods and the supply of services.
  • Work design is relevant at all stages of the operational life cycle, from start-up, routine operations, maintenance, downsizing and cessation of business operations.
  • New initiatives, technologies and change in organisations have implications for work design and should be considered.

Information: Supply chains are often made up of complex commercial or business relationships and contracts designed to provide goods or services. These are often designed to provide goods or services to a large, dominant business in a supply chain. The human and operational costs of poor design by a business can be passed up or down the supply chain.

Businesses in the supply chain can have significant influence over their supply chain partners’ work health and safety through the way they design the work.

Businesses may create risks and so they need to be active in working with their supply chains and networks to solve work health and safety problems and share practical solutions for example, for common design and manufacturing problems.

Health and safety risks can be created at any point along the supply chain, for example, loading and unloading causing time pressure for the transport business.

There can be a flow-on effect where the health and safety and business ‘costs’ of poor design may be passed down the supply chain. These can be prevented if businesses work with their supply chain partners to understand how contractual arrangements affect health and safety.

Procurement and contract officers can also positively influence their own organisation and others work health and safety throughout the supply chain by the good design of contracts. 

When designing contractual arrangements businesses could consider ways to support good work design safety outcomes by:

  • setting clear health and safety expectations for their supply chain partners, for example through the use of codes of conduct or quality standards
  • conducting walk through inspections, monitoring and comprehensive auditing of supply chain partners to check adherence to these codes and standards
  • building the capability of their own procurement staff to understand the impacts of contractual arrangements on their suppliers, and
  • consulting with their supply chain partners on the design of good work practices.

Information: The road transport industry is an example of the application of how this principle can help improve drivers’ health and safety and address issues arising from supply chain arrangements. For example, the National Heavy Vehicle Laws ‘chain of responsibility’ requires all participants in the road transport supply chain to take responsibility for driver work health and safety. Contracts must be designed to allow drivers to work reasonable hours, take sufficient breaks from driving and not have to speed to meet deadlines.

The design of products will strongly impact on both health and safety and business productivity throughout their lifecycles. At every stage there are opportunities to eliminate or minimise risks through good work design. The common product lifecycle stages are illustrated in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3 – common product lifecycle

A diagram of common product lifecycle

Information: For more information on the design of structures and of plant see ‘Safe design of structures’ and Managing the risks of plant in the workplace and other design guidance on the Safe Work Australia website.

The good work design principles are also relevant at all stages of the business life cycle. Some of these stages present particularly serious and complex work health and safety challenges such as during the rapid expansion or contraction of businesses. Systematic application of good work design principles during these times can achieve positive work health and safety outcomes.

View the Bureau of Meteorology case study on fatigue management.

New technology is often a key driver of change in work design. It has the potential to improve the quality of outputs, efficiency and safety of workers, however introducing new technology could also introduce new hazards and unforeseen risks. Good work design considers the impact of the new initiatives and technologies before they are introduced into the workplace and monitors their impact over time.

Information: When designing a machine for safe use, how the maintenance will be undertaken in the future should be considered.

In most workplaces the information and communication technology (ICT) systems are an integral part of all business operations. In practice these are often the main drivers of work changes but are commonly overlooked as sources of workplace risks. Opportunities to improve health and safety should always be considered when new ICT systems are planned and introduced.

A diagram of the WHAT principles
[Figure 4, The ICT Triad]

The HOW Principles

Principle 7: Engage decision makers and leaders

  • Work design or redesign is most effective when there is a high level of visible commitment, practical support and engagement by decision makers.
  • Demonstrating the long-term benefits of investing in good work design helps engage decision makers and leaders.
  • Practical support for good work design includes allocation of appropriate time and resources to undertake effective work design or redesign processes.

Information: Leaders are the key decision makers or those who influence the key decision makers. Leaders can be the owners of a business, directors of boards and senior executives.

Leaders can support good work design by ensuring the principles are appropriately included or applied, for example in:

  • key organisational policies and procedures
  • proposals and contracts for workplace change or design
  • managers’ responsibilities and as key performance indicators
  • business management systems and audit reports
  • organisational communications such as a standing item on leadership meeting agendas, and
  • the provision of sufficient human and financial resources.

Good work design, especially for complex issues will require adequate time and resources to consider and appropriately manage organisational and/or technological change. Like all business change, research shows leader commitment to upfront planning helps ensure better outcomes.

Managers and work health and safety advisors can help this process by providing their leaders with appropriate and timely information. This could include for example:

  • identifying design options which support both business outcomes and work health and safety objectives
  • assessing the risks and providing short and long term cost-benefit analysis of the recommended controls to manage these risks, and
  • identifying what decisions need to be taken, when and by whom to effectively design and implement the agreed changes.

Principle 8: Actively involve the people who do the work, including those in the supply chain and networks

  • Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must consult with their workers and others likely to be affected by work in accordance with the work health and safety laws.
  • Supply chain stakeholders should be consulted as they have local expertise about the work and can help improve work design for upstream and downstream participants.
  • Consultation should promote the sharing of relevant information and provide opportunities for workers to express their views, raise issues and contribute to decision making where possible.

Effective consultation and co-operation of all involved with open lines of communication, will ultimately give the best outcomes. Consulting with those who do the work not only makes good sense, it is required under the WHS laws.

Information: Under the model WHS laws (s47), a business owner must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with ‘workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by a matter relating to work health or safety.’ This can include a work design issue.

If more than one person has a duty in relation to the same matter, ‘each person with the duty must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities with all other persons who have a duty in relation to the same matter’ (model WHS laws s46).

Workers have knowledge about their own job and often have suggestions on how to solve a specific problem. Discussing design options with them will help promote their ownership of the changes. See Code of practice on consultation.

Businesses that operate as part of a supply chain should consider whether the work design and changes to the work design might negatively impact on upstream or downstream businesses. The supply chain partners will often have solutions to logistics problems which can benefit all parties.

Principle 9: Identify hazards, assess and control risks, and seek continuous improvement

  • A systematic risk management approach should be applied in every workplace.
  • Designing good work is part of the business processes and not a one-off event.
  • Sustainability in the long-term requires that designs or redesigns are continually monitored and adjusted to adapt to changes in the workplace so as to ensure feedback is provided and that new information is used to improve design.

Good work design should systematically apply the risk management approach to the workplace hazards and risks. See Principle 4 or more details.

Typically good work design will involve ongoing discussions with all stakeholders to keep refining the design options.  Each stage in the good work design process should have decision points for review of options and to consult further if these are not acceptable. This allows for flexibility to quickly respond to unanticipated and adverse outcomes.

Figure 5 outlines how the risk management steps can be applied in the design process

Continuous improvements in work health and safety can in part be achieved if the good work design principles are applied at business start up and whenever major organisational changes are contemplated. To be most effective, consideration of health and safety issues should be integrated into normal business risk management.

Figure 5 – Steps in the good work design process

A diagram of steps in the good work design process

Principle 10: Learn from experts, evidence, and experience

  • Continuous improvement in work design and hence work health and safety requires ongoing collaboration between the various experts involved in the work design process.
  • Various people with specific skills and expertise may need to be consulted in the design stage to fill any knowledge gaps. It is important to recognise the strengths and limitations of a single expert’s knowledge.
  • Near misses, injuries and illnesses are important sources of information about poor design.

Most work design processes will require collaboration and cooperation between internal and sometimes external experts. Internal advice can be sought from workers, line managers, technical support and maintenance staff, engineers, ICT systems designers, work health and safety advisors and human resource personnel.

Depending on the design issue, external experts may be required such as architects, engineers, ergonomists, occupational hygienists and psychologists.

Information: If you provide advice on work design options it is important to know and work within the limitations of your discipline’s knowledge and expertise. Where required make sure you seek advice and collaborate with other appropriate design experts.

For complex and high-risk projects, ideally a core group of the same people should remain involved during both the design and implementation phases with other experts brought in as necessary.

The type of expert will always depend on the circumstances. When assessing the suitability of an expert consider their qualifications, skills, relevant knowledge, technical expertise, industry experience, reputation, communication skills and membership of professional associations.

Information:  Is the consultant suitably qualified?
A suitably qualified person has the knowledge, skills and experience to provide advice on the specific design issue. You can usually check with the professional association to see if the consultant is certified or otherwise recognised by them to provide work design advice.

The decision to design or redesign work should be based on sound evidence. Typically this evidence will come from many sources such as both proactive and reactive indicators, information about a new technology or the business decisions to downsize, expand or restructure or to meet the requirements of supply chain partners.

Proactive and reactive indicators can also be used to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of the design solution.

Information: Proactive indicators provide early information about the work system that can be used to prevent accidents or harm. These might include for example: key process variables such as temperature or workplace systems indicators such as the number of safety audits and inspections undertaken.

Reactive indicators are usually based on incidents that have already occurred. Examples include number and type of near misses and worker injury and illness rates.

Useful information about common work design problems and solutions can also often be obtained from:

  • work health and safety regulators
  • industry associations and unions
  • trade magazines and suppliers, and
  • specific research papers.
A diagram of the HOW principles
[Figure 5.1, Sources of Work Design Information]

[Good Work Design] Summary

The ten principles of good work design can be applied to help support better work health and safety outcomes and business productivity. They are deliberately high level and should be broadly applicable across the range of Australian businesses and workplaces. Just as every workplace is unique, so is the way each principle can be applied in practice.

When considering these principles in any work design also ensure you take into account your local jurisdictional work health and safety requirements.

[END: Good Work Design]

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Snapshot – Five Principles of Safe Design

Snapshot: Five Principles of Safe Design

Five Principles of Safe Design

  • Principle 1: Persons with control—those who make decisions affecting the design of products, facilities or processes are able to promote health and safety at the source.
  • Principle 2: Product lifecycle—safe design applies to every stage in the lifecycle from conception through to disposal. It involves eliminating hazards or minimising risks as early in the lifecycle as possible.
  • Principle 3: Systematic risk management—apply hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control processes to achieve safe design.
  • Principle 4: Safe design knowledge and capability—should be either demonstrated or acquired by those who control design.
  • Principle 5: Information transfer—effective communication and documentation of design and risk control information amongst everyone involved in the phases of the lifecycle is essential for the safe design approach.

– Safe Work Australia website (see Copyright Statement).

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