Industry News, Research & Analysis, Safety

Review, recommendations and research for a safer tomorrow

Findings from the first national review of Work Health and Safety laws have been released by Safe Work Australia.

Independent reviewer, Marie Boland handed down her findings in the “Review of the model Work Health and Safety laws: Final report” in March this year.  The report is currently available for download on the Safe Work Australia website.

This report was the first national review of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws in Australia and was undertaken at the request of government ministers whose portfolios housed responsibility for WHS matters. In determining the terms of reference, it was also agreed that content and operation of the model WHS laws would be reviewed every five years.

The 195-page document makes for interesting and confronting reading, as Marie Boland says, “Workplace injuries and deaths ruin lives and shatter families”.  In the report, she makes 34 recommendations and advocates for the strengthening and maintaining the drive for national harmonisation of WHS laws across jurisdictions. Feedback Boland received during consultations was that a degree of confusion and complexity exists surrounding WHS laws and regulations.

Among others, the two most significant findings of the review for the crane industry include:

1. The way Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are operating

Boland observed that SWMS for high-risk construction work drew considerable negative feedback during the review (on page154) and found that this resulted from a more general misunderstanding of the requirements of the regulations. Boland made the following recommendations to combat the current issues with SWMS:

– Recommendation 29a: Add a SWMS template to the WHS Regulations

– Recommendation 29b: Develop an intuitive, interactive tool to support the completion of fit-for-purpose SWMS

2. Current high-risk work licensing requirements are outdated

Boland agreed with the assessment by The Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA), that the current model for acquiring High Risk Work Licences was outdated and not reflecting the needs of current workplace practices, to ensure operators are sufficiently trained.

– Recommendation 33 calls for a review of crane licence classes to ensure that they remain relevant to contemporary work practices and equipment

It is unknown at this stage whether the Federal Government will implement all of the recommendations made in the review, but there has been action at a state level.

The Centre for WHS invited those involved in the crane industry to be part of discussion groups, alongside other crane professionals, to discuss the problems affecting crane safety and brainstorm potential solutions to the identified problems.

The discussion groups were facilitated throughout May, by Ron Wakefield and James Harley from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), who partnered with the Centre for WHS on this project.

The 90-minute focus groups were confidential, and the most common themes that arose were:

• Issues with registered training organisations

– Quality of, and inconsistencies in, training

– Potential conflict of interest, tensions between profit over quality

• High risk work license 

– five-day course inadequate

– Insufficient for high-risk environments

– Does the traineeship help solve this problem?

• Complacency of some operators

– Paperwork – burdensome, needs to be simplified

– Procedural overload leads to “group think”

– Reliance on the “process” leaves little room for operator initiative/experience

• Availability and reliability of statistics/data to substantiate safety claims (incident numbers)

– Issues with the quality and volume of data

– Does the base data being used to inform assumptions/decisions truly represent what is happening on site?

• Use of “override” functions within cranes

– This functionality results in high risk behaviour from some operators

• Fitness for work

– Reported increases of drug and alcohol incidents and the flow on effects for safety

Once completed, this study will yield relevant findings for all stakeholders in the crane industry.

CICA has already taken a proactive approach to solution-based programs such as initiating and exploring traineeship/apprenticeship options in most states and the CrewSafe program is gaining traction and uptake.

CICA would like to thank Paul Churchill for his willingness to lead a working group and facilitate crane industry input into the research, as well as those who attended the focus groups.  Together, we can work for a safe and progressive industry.

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