Don’t forget your primary duty is controlling hazards & risks

My observation in many sites and business operations I visit, is that Managers and Directors appear to sit comfortably, thinking they are safe and that their WHS responsibilities are under control because of a miraculous absence of injury. However, glancing out of their office windows, I usually note that there are obvious, significant, uncontrolled hazards, that only due to the skills and attention of the operators, would cause traumatic injury on a daily basis.

As highlighted in DPP v Vibro-Pile (Aust) Pty Ltd [2016] VSCA 55 the obligations of the employers are to address hazards and the resulting risk. As outlined in this case, an injury or death is the outcome of an uncontrolled hazard but not an element of the offence. As the judge says “This is one of the most important but, it seems, least well-understood features of criminal liability under the Occupational Health and Safety Act”.

I talk to many Directors that simply do not understand that it is the control of hazards and risk that are the important outcome, not the absence of injury reflected in low or no LTI rates.
As the judge detailed in the case “The breach consists in the employer’s failure to eliminate or reduce a risk to employee safety. The occurrence of death or injury is of evidentiary significance only. It is not an element of the offence”.

It was also interesting to note in this case that the original penalty for the breach was $450,000 but was actually increased to $1.5 Million on appeal.

If you need help with being proactive and searching out and controlling your hazards and protecting your workers, please contact Safety Management Solutions as we can assist in practical way’s so that you are sitting comfortably in the knowledge that your WHS responsibilities are discharged.

About the Author: Brett Hickinbotham is The Principal WHS Consultant and Director of “Safety Management Solutions”. Brett is a Chartered Fellow of the SIA and a Chartered Safety Professional. He sits on various Professional and Standards Committees.

To learn more contact Safety Management Solutions 

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