Start Here Work Health and Safety

Lessons Learned from a Fatal Accident

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

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

Lessons Learned: Key Points

We examine multiple failings in:

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

Transcript: Lessons Learned from a Theme Park Tragedy

Click here for the Video Transcript


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


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

The Coroner’s Report

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

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

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

WHS duties

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

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

No effective risk assessment

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

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

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

due diligence

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

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

risk controls lacking

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

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

a predictable risk

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

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

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

high-risk plant

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

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

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

no water-level detection, alarm or emergency stop

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

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

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

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

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

human factors

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

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

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

training and competence

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

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

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

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

‘incident free’ operations?

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

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

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


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

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

the role of the regulator

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

looking ahead

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

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

End of Lessons Learned

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

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 It’s available at and you can watch it on YouTube. So just search for safety artisan on YouTube.


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.


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.


 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.


 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 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 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.

Work Health and Safety

Intro to Work Health and Safety

This short video Intro to Work Health and Safety looks at Australian legislation that is relevant to System Safety. Thus, it is of interest to system, functional and design safety practitioners.  It looks at the three classes of ‘upstream’ safety duties of designers, that also apply to manufacturers, importers, suppliers those who install/commission plant substances and structures. 

Intro to Work Health and Safety: so What?

Many people think the WHS Act only applies to the management of safety in the workplace. They’re wrong – it does much more than that. In this short presentation, I am going to show you why the WHS Act is relevant to those with ‘upstream’ safety responsibilities such as designers.

Intro to Work Health and Safety: Topics

  • The primary duty of care;
  • Safety duties of designers (Section 21); and
  • Similar duties apply to others, such as:
    • Manufacturers (Section 23);
    • Importers (Section 24);
    • Suppliers (Section 25);
    • Those installing, constructing or commissioning (Section 26);
    • Officers (Section 27); and
    • Workers (Section 28).

Intro to Work Health and Safety: Transcript

Click Here for the Transcript

Hi everyone and welcome to the Safety Artisan where you will find Professional, pragmatic And impartial Instruction on safety. Which we hope you enjoy. So today we’re talking about the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act in Australia. Which is surprisingly relevant to what we do in Fact. Let’s see how surprising and relevant it is.

Were going to look at the WHS Act. And its relevance to what we’re talking about here on the Safety Artisan. And it’s important to answer that question first, The “So what” test. Many people think that the WHS Act is only applicable To safety In the workplace. So they see it as purely an occupational health and safety Piece of legislation.

And it isn’t!

It does do that, but it does so much more as well.
And in this short presentation, I’m going to show you why The WHS act is relevant. To system safety, functional safety, design safety, Whatever we want to call it.

Now I’m actually looking up some information On the work Health and Safety Act, from The Federal Register of Legislation. And, (In blue letters.) And if we go down to the bottom left-hand side of the screen. We will see
A little map of Australia with a big red tick on it. And in green, it says ‘in force latest version’. So I looked at the Website Today, the 6th of October. And this is the latest version. Which is just to make sure that We’ve got the right version. In Australia the Jurisdiction of which version of the act is in place Is complex. I’m not going to talk about that in the short session but I will in the full video version.

The Primary Duty of Care under the WHS Act

The Primary Duty of Care under the WHS Act is as follows. So a person Conducting a business or undertaking and – a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking is usually abbreviated to PCBU. A horrible, horrible, clunky term! What it’s trying to say is whether you’re doing business or it is non-profit. Whether you work for the government. Or even if you’re self-employed. Whoever you are and whatever you do. If it’s to do with work, being paid for work. Then this applies to you.

Those people doing this stuff Are responsible For ensuring the health and
safety Of workers, who are engaged or paid by the person, by the PCBU. Workers whose activities are influenced or directed by the PCBU while they’re at work. And also the PCBU must ensure the health and safety of Other people. So in the vicinity of the workplace let’s say, or Maybe visitors.

As always the caveat on this ‘ensuring’ Health and Safety is ‘So Far As is reasonably Practicable’. Again we’re not going to be talking about So far as is reasonably practicable in this session, we’ll talk about it in the longer session; and, in fact, I think I’m probably going to do a session Just on the how to do So far as is Reasonably Practicable Because A lot of people Get it wrong. It’s quite a different concept. If you’re not used to it.

Designer Duties under the WHS Act

Moving on. We’ve jumped from Section 19 to Section 22. And we’re now talking about the duties of designers. Well, this doesn’t sound like occupational health and safety does it? So we look at the designer duties of PCBUs who design Plant, Substances, Or structures. So we’re talking industrial plant we’re not talking about commercial goods. There are other
Acts that apply to stuff that you would buy in a shop. So this is industrial plant, Chemical substances and the like. And structures and those might be buildings. Or they might be ships, floating platforms, whatever they might be. Aircraft. Cars.

The First WHS Duty of a Designer

So here we have The First Duty of a designer. And there are three groups of duties. First of all, The designer Has to ensure The health and safety of People in the workplace. If they’re designing plant. If they’re designing or creating. A substance, or A structure. That is to be used, Or might reasonably be expected to be used At a workplace. This duty applies to them. So they’ve got to do whatever it takes. To ensure Health and Safety So far as is reasonably practicable.

Now, carrying on from that. We get a bit more detail. So the designer has got to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that plant, substance or structure Is designed To be without risks. The risks are To the health and safety of persons, who Are At a workplace. Who might, Use it For the purpose for which it was designed, Who might Handle the substance. Who might store the plant or substance? And who might construct a structure? Or, and here’s the catch-all, who might carry out any reasonably foreseeable activity At a workplace In relation to this plant, substance, or structure.

And then if we go on to Part (e)(i) And we now get a long list of stuff. Any reasonably foreseeable activity Includes manufacture, assembly, Use, Proper storage, decommissioning, dismantling, disposal, Etc. We run out of space there. But the bottom line is that the scope of this act is cradle to grave. So from the very first time that we Design A plant, substance or structure. Right through to final disposal of said, Plant Substance and structure. The Designer has safety responsibilities. Thinking about the whole lifecycle of This stuff.

The Second WHS Duty of a Designer

Now we move on to the other Two duties that a designer has. So in subsection 3. The designer has a duty to carry out testing. That’s what it says in the guide. Actually, if you look at the words in the act it says the designer must carry out or arrange for Calculations, analysis, testing, Or examination. Whatever is necessary for the performance of the duty that We just described In Subsection 2. You recall Subsection 2, cradle to grave, from creation to final disposal. Calculations, analysis, testing or examination Might be needed. The designer has got to Carry that out Or arrange it. In order to ensure safety SFARP.

The Third WHS Duty of a Designer

And then, our Final Duty Is having done all of that work. Having designed this stuff to be safe and done all the Calculations and testing. The designer must give Adequate information to each person provided with the design. And the purpose of doing so, We’re not just providing information for the sake of it, or because we felt like it. It’s provided for a specific purpose. So each Purpose, Which the plant, substance or structure was designed. So we need all the information associated With its design purpose.
We’ve got to provide the results of those calculations, analysis, testing and

And, Probably this is also equally Crucial from a hazard analysis point of view, Any conditions necessary to ensure that the plant, substance or structure Is without risk to health and safety. When it is used for the purpose for which it was designed, Or, (All the other stuff If we go back to
Section 2.)

So Section 4, Does actually say this applies to Section 2(a-e). But we ran out of space on the page, so the designers got to provide all the information necessary. for people to use this stuff and for the life cycle of whatever it is from cradle to grave. Now, If we look at Section 4(a-c), We can say that’s the kind of information we generate from Hazard Analysis from safety analysis. So, yeah, Absolutely We need system safety In order to meet these duties, to satisfy these duties.

A Consistent set of Duties Across the Supply Chain

And these duties are not just on designers, because the WHS Act Is actually Very, very clever. Because it applies Much the same duties, those three duties that we heard of. The duty to ensure health and safety. The duty to test and analyze. And the duty to provide information. If we look at Sections 22, Through 26, We find that very similar duties apply
To designers.
To manufacturers.
To importers.
To suppliers.
And to those installing, constructing, Or commissioning. Substances and
And the duties in these sections are all consistent. Basically, it recognizes that there is a supply chain. From design right through to installation and commissioning. And Everybody in that chain Has duties To do their part correctly, or to test what they have to. Pass on information, To the next set of stakeholders.

And then, In addition to that, If we looked in Section 27 we would see the Officers Of the PCBU, so Company directors and the like, People with, major influence, Who are able to direct operations and that kind of thing. So senior management and directors of companies and the equivalent in the public sector Have special requirements applying to them. Again, We’re going to talk about that in the Main Video, Not in this one. And then workers have Duties to Comply with reasonable instructions, That are intended to keep safe And other workers [safe]. So that if we go to Section 28 you get the kind of thing that you would expect to see in work-place safety.

Copyright and Attribution

So that’s it In the short video. Just to mention that I have Shown you information From the Federal Register of Legislation. I’m entitled to do that under the Creative Commons license. And I’m making the required attribution statement. You can see it in the middle of the Screen. And for the full information on these terms on copyright and attribution, Please go to that page On my website. And you will find full details of the terms and conditions, under which this video was created. And if you want to see the full version of the introduction to the WHS Act, which is going to cover a lot more ground than this then please go to the Safety Artisan page On

That’s the Presentation. And it just remains for me to say, Thanks very much for listening. I look forward to meeting you again. Cheers now.

The Full Version is Here…

If you want more, if you want a wider and deeper view of the WHS Act, then there’s a longer version of this video. Which you can get at my Patreon page.

I hope you enjoy it. Well that’s it for the short video, for now. Please go and have a look at the longer video to get the full picture. OK, everyone, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and I hope you found that useful. I’ll see you again soon. Goodbye.

The full-length ‘Guide to WHS’ video is here. Back to the WHS Topic Page.

Start Here Work Health and Safety

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law

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

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

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law, Key Points

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

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law: Transcript

Click Here for the Transcript

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law: Topics

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

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


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

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

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

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

Let’s get on with it.

Legislation #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislation #2

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

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

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

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

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

Legislation #3

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

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

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

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

Legislation #4

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Regulators #1

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

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

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

That’s the easy bit!

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

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

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

Regulators #2

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Cultural Issues: UK versus the EU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Statement

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

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

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

Comparing Australian & UK Safety Law: The End!

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