Three safety incidents all outdoor workers should consider…

The accepted way of managing health and safety issues in the workplace is essentially a fairly simple ‘risk management’ approach in which hazards (i.e. sources of harm) are identified, assessed, controlled and then monitored.

Three incidents investigated or prosecuted by the relevant State Government Authority highlight how this process is lacking in relation to outdoor work.  Each involved outdoor related activities, many of which occur in many businesses and together they give a pretty good indication of how broadly the WHS management process outlined above should be applied.

Incident One – Roadwork

A recent article in South Australia reported that when passing road workers, motorists will travel at speeds of 40kph or more in a 25kph area – a fact that has prompted several recent initiatives in S.A. and Queensland aimed at curbing this behaviour, including “police crackdowns”.

 However, police cannot be everywhere and another fatality, this time in Queensland, occurred at roadworks in Whitfield, Cairns. A traffic controller died when he was laying orange ‘witches hats’ along the centre line of a dual carriageway and was struck by a car while attempting to jump out of its path. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is investigating the incident.

 Workers are exposed daily to roadwork related works, so stop and think about whether your actions at roadwork’s could lead to injury or worse.

Incident Two – Training and adequate supervision the key

A Monarto (S.A.) flower grower was recently fined in excess of $30,000.00 as a result of a safety shortcoming which contributed to a young worker injuring himself with a circular saw.

 A 21 year old male employed as a farm worker, had been tasked with cutting lengths of recycled greenhouse timbers. During the process, the circular saw he was using kicked back and dropped onto his leg, causing a deep laceration to his left thigh. A Safework investigation found that amongst other things:

  •  There was no evidence of safety induction or training.

  • The employee’s supervision and training was wholly inadequate, in that the supervisor’s knowledge of the tool was insufficient.

The Magistrate described it as “a serious breach of the defendant’s obligations to its youthful and inexperienced employee”.

 Supervisors are placed in a position of responsibility for the health and safety of their workers. Failure to comply with this responsibility can result in them being personally liable and prosecuted. A supervisor MUST know how to use the risk assessment documentation they are provided, they must ensure their employees know how to undertake a risk assessment and must ensure adequate supervision of inexperienced or young workers.

Incident Three – Contractor fatally struck by a tree in Queensland

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is investigating a fatal incident that occurred at a property near Gympie, where a tree-lopping contractor died when he was working on a tractor to assist felling a tree. The contractor was struck by the tree when it fell.

 Workers must ensure they follow all health and safety requirements when working on sites.  If you are not competent or qualified to undertake a particular task, then you should make your supervisor aware.  Supervisors should make sure tasks are being undertaken by trained, competent operators.

How Do These Incidents Relate to YOU?

Each time you go to work, you have a right to expect to be able to return home uninjured. So the messages from these incidents include:

  • Each job should be risk assessed. Not just a generic assessment but one specific to the task at hand.

  • Safe operating procedures should be developed as a result of the assessment….do you know what they are and do you follow them?

  • You need to be trained to use each tool you are asked to use.

  • The correct PPE should be available and used correctly.

  • An appropriate level of supervision should be provided.

  • Supervisors and Workers have health and safety responsibilities.

 If you reflect on these points and find that you are uncomfortable with your own work situation, make your concerns known to your supervisor, health and safety representative or safety advisor.

 For more information visit:

Email: [email protected]

or get the Safety Made Simple book – How To Manage Health & Safety Risks…Easily!by Paul Gear – Number 1 in Amazon Top 100 for Business Law (Jul 2016)

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