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Health And Safety Law OCHS 12015

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Question:

Discuss about the Occupational Health and Safety Law OCHS 12015.
 
 

Answer:

Introduction

Occupational health and safety is regarded as a discipline that contains a broad scope involving several specialized fields. In the broadest sense, occupational health and safety aims to promote and maintain the largest degree of mental, physical and social well-being of workers related to all occupations; prevent incidence of adverse health effects among all workers due to unsafe working conditions; provide protection from risks that may act as prerequisite to adverse health conditions during their employment tenure; and place and maintain an occupational environment that adapts to the mental and physical needs of the workers (Johnstone and Tooma 2012). This report will illustrate the occupational safety standards of a particular organization, the Do More Steel Manufacturing Company and will further elaborate on the responsibilities of all duty holders related to a particular accident that occurred in this company.

 

Discussion

Identification of duty holders, extent of duty and maximum penalties

i.PCBU

PCBU stands for a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ and is a legal term that is used in accordance to the Workplace Health and Safety Laws to refer to businesses, individuals (sole traders) or organizations (company) that conduct a particular business. Any person who works for a PCBU is regarded as a worker (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017). The primary duty of a PCBU is to ensure that the safety and health of its workers, subcontractors or visitors to the workplace are not put to risk by any of their work activity. This is referred to as primary duty of care. A PCBU who is a self-employed person must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, his or her own health and safety while at work. In the case study, the Do More Steel Manufacturing Company is the PCBU. It is entitled to provide a work environment that is without any risks to the health and safety of its workers and visitors. The reasonable practice duties of Do More include the following:

  • Maintaining and providing safe structures and plant.
  • Maintaining a safe work system.
  • Ensuring safe handling, use and storage of the structures, plant and substances.
  • Building adequate facilities that enhance worker welfare at times of work operation and allowing free access to the facilities.
  • Creating opportunities for training or supervision to protect all workers from health and safety risks that arise at the company (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017).
  • Regular monitoring of the worker health status and workplace conditions to prevent  any occupational illness or workplace related injuries.
  • Moreover, the PCBU is entitled to ensure that the means of entry and exit at the workplace do not pose any risks to the health and safety of any concerned person (section 20); the plants, fixtures and fittings are without potent risks section 21); and the installation, use an carrying out of foreseeable activity related to the plant or structure does not affect the worker’s health and safety.

Penalties- A three-tier penalty structure is set up by the WHS Act. The most serious category 1 offence includes reckless conduct in respect of duty (HSWA Section 47). This penalty is imposed when the PCBU recklessly engages in any conduct that exposes the workers or officers to death risks or other serious injuries. The maximum penalty for the organization will be $3 million.  A category 2 offence includes failure to comply with duties that expose individuals to serious injuries, illness or death risks (HSWA Section 48).  The organization has to pay a fine of $1.5 million on committing this offence (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017). The category 3 penalty is imposed when there is a failure to comply with any health or safety duty (HSWA Section 49).  The PCBU is subject to payment of a fine worth $500,000 on breach of this conduct.

 

ii.Officers

The duties of an officer of a PCBU are outlined by the WHS Act of 2011. The Act defines officers as an individual who is responsible for making decisions, or participating in decision making, that affects the entire or a substantial part of the concerned undertaking or business. Officers have the capability to significantly alter the business’s financial standing. Individuals who are only concerned with implementation of decisions are not considered as officers. The director or secretary of a PCBU is generally regarded as an officer. In addition to the Director, any person whose wishes or instructions are acted upon by a director, any administrator of the organization or a deed of arrangement, any liquidator of the organization and a trustee who administers the compromise between the organization and any other entity may also be considered as an officer (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017). In the case study, Harry Leaves, the managing director is the officer of the Do More Steel organization. His duties include:

  • Acquiring and keeping an up-to-date knowledge of WHS matters.
  • Gaining an understanding of the company operations that include the risks and hazards associated with it.
  • Ensuring that the organization has adequate processes and resources to enable identification of WHS hazards and risks for elimination (Zanko and Dawson 2012).
  • Ensuring that appropriate processes are available to receive and accordingly respond to hazard and incident information in a timely manner.
  • Allowing provisions for implementation of duty under the WHS Act.
  • Verifying, monitoring and reviewing all operation processes.

Penalties- For category 1 reckless conduct, a penalty of 5 years imprisonment or $600,000 fine or both are imposed on the officers (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017). $300,000 fine is penalized for category 2 offence. Officers are liable to pay a fine of $100,000 on failure to comply with health and safety duties as a category 3 offence.

iii.Workers

  • A worker is a person who carries out any work in capacity for a particular employer or business or other PCBU. Workers can be any employee, apprentice, trainees, volunteers, contractors, sub-contractors; employees of any labour hire company or subcontractors and outworkers. In the case study, the safety advisor, plant engineer, foreman, mechanical supervisor, sitting line operator and accountant are all workers of Do More Steel Manufacturing Company (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017). According to the WHS Act, Section 28, they should follow 4 duties as stated below:
  • Taking reasonable care for their personal health and safety.
  • Taking reasonable care that their omissions or actions do not affect health and safety of other person adversely.
  • Showing compliance with reasonable instructions given by the PCBU.
  • Cooperating with reasonable procedures or policies of PCBU related to workplace health and safety.

Penalties- A category 1 offence related under Section 47 imposes a penalty of five years imprisonment or $300,000 fine, or both. Section 48 category 2 offence by workers leads to fine of $150,000. Category 3 offence on grounds of Section 48 penalizes them with $50,000 fine (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017).

 

Cause of incident

The incident occurred due to violations of the rules and regulations formulated by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The act was built with the object of providing a nationally consistent and balanced framework that would secure the health and safety of all workers at workplaces. Several sections of the Act contained guidelines specific for PCBU, officers and workers that they should follow to protect workers and other individuals against harms (Schilling 2013). All the concerned officers and workers of the Do More Steel Manufacturing Company failed to abide by the regulations and did not eliminate the risks that occurred due to fault in the sitting line operation. Rob Hansen’s accident involved an instrument malfunctioning during its operations. The company purchases coated or uncoated steel coils, paints the coils followed by shearing or slitting as per customer requirements. The company has one shear line, one paint line and another sitting line along with mechanical, electrical and fabrication departments. The accident that occurred was due to fault in the functioning of the sitting line operations. The sitting line is robust machinery that is composed of various equipments driven by electric motors. Hydraulic energy is used to power the ancillary equipment. The accident occurred in the region of the threader table that is situated between the recoiler and the pinch rolls.

A threader clamp is attached above the threader table and the lower half of the table could be lowered in a vertical position when it was not requited. The clamp gets driven up the threader table, out from the recoiler when a new coil is fed at the front. This leads to rise of the lower end of the threader table. Shutting off the hydraulic power for a considerable period of time led to lowering of the table and this made the clamp to creep down. Moreover, the front wheels also ran off the track near the hinged section. In order to prevent any hazards from this event, there was a need to insert a safety pin inside the locating lugs on the pinch roll housing and the clamp. The events that triggered the accident were shutdown of the sitting line for the weekend and failure to insert a safety pin before the hydraulic pumps were stopped. On investigating the reason behind creeping of the clamp down the threader table, the absence of safety pin was noticed and Dave Basse, an operator advised Ima Necte, the foreman to seek help from Craig Pollard to fix the clamp back on its rails. However, they failed to move the clamp back to the table due to a jam of the wheels against the table frame. It was then, when Rob Hansen was asked for to relocate the clamp. A cumalong or pull lift device was attached to the frame of the clamp and the pinch roll. The clamp suddenly pulled up on its track and shot up the threader table when Rob applied pressure on the lifting device. He was unable to get out of the way and slipped. This made the clamp shoot like a rocket and the safety pin lugs jammed and struck Rob in his chest and abdomen.

It took a long time to remove the clamp and get Rob out. On disconnecting the hydraulic pump, the clamp was moved and Rob could be freed. However, on admission to the hospital, Rob succumbed to his injuries. Thus, a machine malfunction can be stated as the main cause for the accidental death. However, that is not the only reason for this case. Failure to comply with workplace health and safety guidelines was also responsible for this incident that could have been avoided. The guideline proposed by the WHS Act, 2011 states that protection of workers and other person against any health or safety harm should be of utmost priority for all organizations (Australia, S.W 2013). Continuous monitoring of health and safety practices and elimination of risks that can arise from particular plant or substances should always be followed by the PCBU. However, the Do More Steel Manufacturing Company failed to eliminate the defective sitting line operation even when the malfunction was brought to their notice on several prior occasions. Failure to implement a permanent solution regarding the working of the machinery and negligence on the part of the officers and the workers led to the accident (Worksafe.qld.gov.au, 2017).

 

Identification of breaches

All duty holders in a workplace are entitled to ensure that health and safety of the workers or employees are a priority (Bluff et al. 2012). The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 and Work Health and Safety Act 2011 require people who have the duty or responsibility to ensure worker health and safety by managing hazards through elimination of risks by extent that is reasonably practicable (Australia, S 2011). In the case study, the primary fault was on the part of the entire company and its Managing Director, Harry Leaves. He should have known about installation or construction of the machinery and should have exercised due diligence to ensure that the installed structure did not create any effects on the health and safety of the workers (Archer et al. 2012). However, his inquiry about the unit design after the notifiable incident proved the breach of conduct. Although, Ima and Craig were watching the work from an area outside the safety fence, Rob was inside the fence. This was a major breach of conduct as adequate information should have been made available to the workers regarding the distance they should have maintained while operating on the machines.

The workers were not provided with instruction or training that was needed for working safely. Moreover, the WHs regulations state that it is the primary duty of the management and officers to control any fittings, fixtures or plants at the workplace to ensure that such machinery does not affect the health and safety of any employee (Australia, S.W 2012). This regulation was completely violated. Statements from the Mechanical Supervisor and Plant Engineer indicate that the problem with the threader table clamp was not new and had been known to all workers for more than 3 years. However, no permanent steps were taken to modify the machinery. The construction of new paining facility in the engineering department made it problematic for the organization to change the maintenance design. The matter was not considered an urgent safety issue. The plant engineer had been assured that the company production department would adhere to the custom of inserting a safety pin and that a system had been designed to remove jamming of the clamp when it crept down the table. This made the plant engineer not consider the malfunction of machinery as an urgent need. Thus, it can be said that the supervisor and engineer did not comply with their responsibilities of carrying out tests of the setting line operation to ensure that it does not pose any risk to the safety of the workers (Reese 2015).

Moreover, their action showed offence in relation to consultation with other duty holders and workers (Section 46, 47). The plant engineer was also at fault for not informing the electrical foreman of the recent changes made in the electrical circuit while the latter was on a holiday. Not informing the concerned worker about changes made in his work area is an act of negligence. A production foreman is mainly involved in determining the work priorities and verifies which tasks should be completed first. Though, Ima Necte did not receive any training on operating the machinery, it was his prime duty to inspect the work environment and verify absence of hazardous conditions (Legislation.qld.gov.au, 2017). Though, he should have been self-informed about the situation, he was informed of the clamp jamming by the sitting line operator. Another breach of conduct was done by the safety advisor. Conducting single day for prevention, injury reporting and basic safety programs are not sufficient (Macdonald et al. 2012). Supply of PPE and regular training should have been accompanied with focusing on the top 5-10 workplace hazards, tracking the performance progress and devoting time to reduce hazards related to change management, hit by an object or manual tasks (Australia, S.W 2012). Lastly, the workers themselves should have taken care to maintain their own safety.

Conclusion

Thus, it can be concluded that In order to implement a successful occupational health and safety practice, participation and collaboration is required from the workers and their employers together. There were major fault on the part of the organisation, the officers and the workers in showing compliance with the health and safety regulations, which led to the accidental death of Rob Hansen.

 

References

Archer, R.J., Borthwick, K., Travers, M. and Ruschena, L., 2012. WHS: A management guide. Cengage Learning.

Australia, S., 2011. Work Health and Safety Act 2012. Safe Work Australia.

Australia, S.W., 2012. Australian work health and safety strategy 2012-2022: Healthy, safe and productive working lives. Safe Work Australia.

Australia, S.W., 2012. Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2009-10. Australian Government-Safe Work Australia.

Australia, S.W., 2013. Key work health and safety statistics. Canberra: Safe Work Australia.

Bluff, E., Johnstone, R., McNamara, M. and Quinlan, M., 2012. Enforcing upstream: Australian health and safety inspectors and upstream duty holders. Australian Journal of Labour Law, 25(1), pp.23-42.

Johnstone, R. and Tooma, M., 2012. Work Health and Safety Regulation in Australia: The Model Act. The Federation Press.

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018#pt.2-div.2 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018#sec.27 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018#sec.28 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018#sec.31 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018#sec.32 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018#sec.33 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Legislation.qld.gov.au (2017). View - Queensland Legislation - Queensland Government. [online] Legislation.qld.gov.au. Available at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/sl-2011-0240 [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Macdonald, W., Driscoll, T., Stuckey, R. and Oakman, J., 2012. Occupational health and safety in Australia. Industrial health, 50(3), pp.172-179.

Reese, C.D., 2015. Occupational health and safety management: a practical approach. CRC press.

Schilling, R.S.F. ed., 2013. Occupational health practice. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Worksafe.qld.gov.au (2017). Definitions. [online] WorkSafe Queensland. Available at: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/laws-and-compliance/workplace-health-and-safety-laws/definitions [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].

Zanko, M. and Dawson, P., 2012. Occupational health and safety management in organizations: A review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 14(3), pp.328-344.

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