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14 February 2012

Workplace health and safety

New laws which will apply to you!

New workplace health and safety regulations have become law from 1 January 2012. They are significant and relevant for all businesses – whether you have 1 employee or 100, and cannot be ignored.

The laws do not just apply to employees of the business but to anyone visiting the workplace eg contractors, clients, the public, suppliers etc. They also apply when your employees are working outside the office, visiting other places of work, client sites etc. If one of your employees works from home for one day a week, and slips down the stairs, you could also be liable if the relevant safeguards are not in place.

It has been suggested to us that a possible approach to workplace health and safety issues could be along the following lines:

1. Identify the hazards and create a 'risk matrix'


2. Initially focus on the 'high risk, high consequence' items, meaning they could easily occur and have adverse outcomes

3. Brainstorm solutions or ways to reduce or minimise the risk (involve the team in the process)

4. Immediately action these items, ensuring that every individual in the workplace is aware and understands the risks, safeguards and reason for this

5. Keep a record of what you have done, ensuring it is reviewed as needed and kept up to date

Possible Penalties

Significant penalties apply to all officers of the company, not just directors but other individuals with a responsibility for decision making role in the workplace, eg managers, The harshest penalty for breach of health and safety duty is an individual penalty of $600,000 and/or up to 5 years imprisonment. Significant penalties also apply for corporations.

What we have done at Overells
  • Created a 'risk matrix', listing the likelihood of the hazard occurring and the degree of harm that could result from the hazard
  • Identified the risks which we believe to have a higher likelihood of occurring and could result in significant harm to the person
  • Taken reasonable steps to prevent the hazard occurring and preferably eliminate the risk, while creating awareness and knowledge of the issues around the office
Possible high risk hazards we have identified and possible risk minimisation solutions include:

 HIGH CONSEQUENCE
 SUGGESTED RISK MINIMISATION SOLUTIONS
 Electrocution
  • ensure all appliances are "tagged" as per legislation
 Food poisoning
  • clean fridge out on a weekly basis
  • dispose of items after "use by date" expiry
  • ensure items are always put back in fridge (prepare note for kitchen)
 Falling downstairs
  • use handrail for balance
  • advise staff that safe passage is priority & should therefore not run down stairs – warning sign
 Eye damage
  • lighting to be replaced on a regular basis and relocated if required
 Back injury – lifting etc
  • correct lifting techniques displayed
  • always seek assistance for heavy items – it's not a strongman competition
 Boiling water   
  • install additional power points in kitchen near table so everyone not congregated in corner
  • power board for appliances
 Slipping outside
  • awareness of conditions and taking care
  • warning sign "slippery when wet"
 Car accident in driveway
  • install sign "beware of pedestrians"
 Injuries while walking
 (eg to shops)
  • employees to sign statement confirming they are aware it is illegal and dangerous to jay walk and they are personally responsible
  • instruct staff that safe passage is the priority – not haste
Injuries working from home
  • workplace audit to be done
 Storage shed related injuries
  • correct lifting techniques displayed
  • boxes re-stacked at an appropriate height and placed only on a shelf where reachable
 Alcohol related activities
  • "responsible drinking" rules to be part of induction procedure and reiterated when advising of functions
 Ergonomics
  • have audit done of each workspace

Please note that we are not experts in the matter, and the hazards and possible risk minimisations we have identified will not be relevant or complete for all businesses.  However we do urge you to take this legislation seriously and act appropriately.

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