Well, I can say the worst piece of advice I’ve heard passed onto Agribusiness managers since the new Health and Safety at Work Act came into force two years ago is; “I’ve been told I don’t need to record anything to comply, we just need to chat about it with the guys…”

And sure, that might be technically correct – however, I reckon this is poor advice, no matter who you heard it from. And here’s the reason why.

I’d agree verbal communication is at the very essence of an effective risk management system. Farm managers and duty holders who actively chat and discuss work safety as a key element of everyday farming operations are going a long way to ensuring incident numbers will be much lower on their property than those who do not take such a proactive approach.

However, when something does go “wrong” and you as a PCBU can’t provide evidence that these conversations or processes have taken place, this leaves you as a duty holder in a compromised position.

When a Worksafe or equivalent inspector arrives at your worksite to conduct a duty holder review or formal investigation this is the kind of evidence they’ll be looking for. Sure they’ll ask if H&S is discussed on site, but that’ll just be the tip of the iceberg.

Amongst a long list of items, they’re mainly going to search for something call Causative Factors. And in this process, the inspector involved will be quizzing you for evidence of:

  • Training: What training or instruction have the parties been provided (induction, task-specific, hazard identification etc.)? Please provide supporting documents (company records, certificates etc.)
  • Competence: What qualifications and/or experience do the parties have to undertake the task being performed?
    How do you know workers are performing as per training provided and remain competent?
  • Procedures: What procedures do you have that cover the task being performed at the time of the incident? Consider the following: standard operating procedures (SOPs), job safety analysis (JSA), emergency plans, contractor management etc. Please provide a copy of these where applicable. Have the procedures been followed?
  • Supervision: Who was the supervisor? What level of supervision was required for the task? Has the supervisor or other workers noticed any actions that are out of line with procedures, and if so what actions were taken?
  • Hazard Identification: When was the hazard identified? Please provide a copy of your hazard identification.
  • Hazard Control: If the hazard was previously identified, what controls were put in place? How has the incident come to occur with these controls in place?
  • Hazard Management: What other controls were considered? How do you assess hazards and consider controls?
  • Governance: How are senior management made aware of hazards and risks within the workplace? When were senior management first aware of the hazards and risks associated with this incident? What factors were assessed when deciding on the existing controls?

And the list goes on from here…you can review the duty holder question template on the Worksafe website

We designed Zero Harm Farm to comprehensively allow managers to record a huge amount of the evidence requested during a review or investigation in a simple, mobile and paperless fashion. It’s easy for staff and contractors to use, is free to trial and low cost to maintain.

We’d love to read your comments and thoughts.

Opinion Piece: Mark Orr GM, Zero Harm Farm.

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