Using Smartphones for WHS Compliance


App2Smartphone ownership in Australia is sitting at 81% with predictions that we are looking at a saturation point of around 90% of people having them by 2017. About 84% of users take their smartphone wherever they go and 71% never turn them off.

The same owners have embraced a strong uptake in the use of mobile apps. A US study by research firm Nielsen found that the average number of apps used per month wast 26.8 in 2013 and that users spent on average 30 hours a month using apps on their Android or IPhone devices.

Using Apps for Compliance

This presents  huge opportunities for Work Management systems to be mobilised. The benefits of moving current WHS systems  to an app on the smartphone are obvious.

  • Reduce time spent on data entry by allowing workers in the field to enter data wherever they are.
  • Enable work from any location to allow access to policies and procedures.
  • Replace inefficient manual processes and expensive paper forms.
  • Improve collaboration and sharing across the organisation.
  • Allow access from remote and distributed workforces.

The cost of going mobile is coming down as well. In the past businesses have expected to spend anywhere between $25,000 and $200,000 developing their own app. On top of that each app is treated separately so you end up with a large number of apps sharing real estate on the phone screen. Now new mobile solutions are arriving that allow the customer to take more control and build their own app for a fraction of the cost.

New Mobile Platform

A new option is to use a Mobile Platform such as the Safety Concepts App. One platform can host any number of processes meaning you have one App replacing your manual system of WHS forms, templates, policies and processes. The savings of using a platform are significant. With no programing there are no IT costs. And the number of manual processess you can convert to the app are unlimited meaning that it can grow as the needs of the business grow.

Right now the Safety Concepts App is being used to virtualise complete manual Health and Safety systems. From site inspections to audit forms , from incident reports to Take Five checks the Safety Concepts App hosts any processes that the typical WHS system might do manually. The result is a boost in productivity and also savings in time and resources.



Victoria Records Worker Deaths in 2014

Memorial for Workers KilledVictorian workplaces claimed the lives of two workers for every month in 2014. A total of 23 people died in Victorian workplaces last year, according to provisional figures released by the Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA).

Seven of those deaths occurred in the final two months of the year.

VWA Executive Director of Health and Safety Len Neist said families and fellow workers of those tragically lost in 2014 face a sad start to 2015.

“Our message to all Victorians as we head into a new year is a simple one – please make workplace safety a priority,” he said.

“While the number of injuries at workplaces is declining, fatalities are still occurring with tragic frequency. So let’s all aim for a fatality-free 2015.”

Neist said everyone had a part to play in making workplaces safe.

“Employers can improve safety by making sure staff are trained and supervised, they have the right equipment to carry out their work and that any risks are identified and managed appropriately,” he said.

“Approaching safety together to control exposure to hazards and manage risks is the best way to prevent serious injury or death in the workplace.”

The agriculture sector remains a priority for the VWA, claiming 10 lives in 2014. Eight of those fatalities occurred on farms.

Neist said farmers were overrepresented in workplace fatalities, highlighting the potential dangers of working in agriculture.

“Farmers often work alone and are exposed to other risks such as working with heavy machinery, so it’s important that they remain vigilant.”

Nine of the workplace fatalities occurred in metropolitan Melbourne and 14 were in country Victoria.

“We want all Victorians to come home safe every day. Make sure you put safety first and make sure your employees and your workmates do the same.”



Reducing Noise Risk in the Workplace

Noise1We get asked all the time about workplace noise and what can be done to reduce the risk of long term loss of hearing.

Construction sites and manufacturing centres in particular can be very noisy places and it’s important that employers and staff take necessary precautions to ensure they do not risk damaging their hearing in the long term.

First, are you aware which sources are most hazardous, and which steps you can take to improve your workplace hearing safety?


Effect of Noise

Temporary deafness often occurs after exposure to noisy areas, with your ears taking a few days to return to normal. If your ears are exposed to this level of noise continuously, there is a real potential for them to sustain permanent damage.

Similarly, permanent damage can occur from sudden, unexpected sources of work noise, such as falling debris or, less commonly, explosions.

A safe level of noise is generally considered to be up to 85 decibels (dB), but construction site noise frequently exceeds this.

Generally, worksite noise will be from heavy machinery like compressors, concrete mixers, presses, concrete breakers and compactors.

As levels rise, the safe level of exposure time falls: 88dB, for example, is considered a safe level of noise for up to four hours; the recommended exposure time at 100dB is 15 minutes; and when noise reaches 111dB it will start to do damage after only 56 seconds.

Noise 2


Tips for Reducing the risk of hearing damage

High noise levels on worksites can be lowered by using both engineering and administrative controls and  personal protective equipment (PPE), such as earplugs. Generally, employers and staff should work together to ensure that process and control strategies are in place first, and provide PPE as a further preventative measure; however, both are vital at all times.

Where noise is a risk at work at employers must at least carry out risk assessments, education and training at 80 dB and above; hearing protection and prevention must then start at 85dB.

The following tips will help you to ensure that on-site noise is kept to a minimum:

  • Accurately assess the noise risks on-site by measuring sound levels: if you have to raise your voice from two metres then noise will typically be above 85dB. If you are unsure you should use noise rating equipment; make sure you keep accurate records of all measurements.
  • Use manufacturer information to source equipment which has the lowest noise rating; for example, by purchasing saw blades with greater numbers of teeth and smaller gullets you can reduce noise by up to 6dB.
  • If a job is particularly noisy, ensure that workers not involved in the task are moved away from the area.
  • Prevent access to noisy areas using barriers and use signage to warn people about dangerous noise levels; only allow entry to those wearing adequate PPE.
  • Modify noisy equipment with damping materials, mufflers, or silencers and shut down when not being used; this will reduce the average level of noise emitted.
  • Restrict average exposure to noisy activities by introducing work rotation policies; this will ensure the same staff do not experience continuous exposure.
  • For workers in close proximity to noise emitting equipment, earplugs should be worn at all times. and make sure staff keep them in a safe place ready for each shift; work should not be allowed to begin without them.
  • Ensure that wearing earplugs does not interfere with the safety of other machinery or equipment.


Check you’ve thought of everything for your Work Christmas Party


skills shack - photo1skills shack - photo2This is an article written by our friends at the Skills Shack.



xmas party photoWe first published this article in 2012.  We thought we would re-post as a timely reminder to be mindful of safety when celebrating the festive season!

Christmas is here and it’s a time for celebration.  But what are your work safety obligations? For most of us Christmas involves a party or function of some kind where everyone traditionally lets their hair down and has some fun.  It is important in this time of fun and frivolity that we do not lose focus on the need to provide a safe environment for our party revellers.  

Whether you are having your party in the office, factory, warehouse or work site it will be necessary to carry out a risk assessment on the space being used, to eliminate any hazards and reduce the risk of injury.  Just because it is a party does not mean employees don’t have the right to lodge compensation claims – as a matter of fact it is probably more important because you will be providing alcohol and food.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Responsible service of alcohol – consumption of alcohol should be monitored, particularly if the employee is young.  A good policy is to have someone administering the alcohol rather than individuals helping themselves.  Ensure underaged employees or vistitors are not served alcohol and that intoxicated employees are denied further alcohol.
  • Provide food – when providing food you must take care with the preparation so that it doesn’t make people ill.  Labelling on the food to show the ingredients is a good way of avoiding any allergies and ensuring that individuals are able to make correct choices of what they can and can’t eat.
  • Xmas decorations securely fastened and any cords safely concealed, eliminating tripping hazards.
  • Transport – If your xmas party is off site and you have arranged for transport to deliver your staff, it is advisable that you also organise transport to return your staff to your workplace.  It will then be considered their responsibility to safely travel home from their place of work as per normal.
  • Management should set a good example for others by drinking responsibly.

It is also worth noting that if your party/function is for clients and your staff are expected to attend as part of their employment role there may be other factors for you to consider.  If your employees or guests are from out of town and you are providing their accommodation, you will effectively be responsible for their safety during their stay and that includes on their way home from the function.  There was a case recently in Victoria where an employee was attacked and beaten on the way home from a function that she was obligated to attend.  Because she was from out of town and was provided accommodation by her employer the Victorian WorkCover Authority conceded that this was a valid claim and compensation was paid.

So whether you are having your celebrations in-house or off-site there is a definite need to make sure you are providing a safe environment at all times.  It is a time to remind staff that things like bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated. We all want to end the year on a happy note and build and maintain a healthy morale within the workplace.  We want to have the employees feel valued and appreciated, so take the time to effectively manage the risks and enjoy your party.

*Merry Christmas*


Is Resilience the Answer To Workplace Stress?

Stress ProfesionalsIs resilience a new buzzword for employers who think the only reason staff are stressed at work is that they’re just not tough enough?

An article published as part of National Stress Awareness Day in the United Kingdom recently highlighted the issues surrounding workplace stress and how lately there has been an implication that it’s just the new way for employees to claim benefits or shirk their work.

The article went on to say that in the UK today stress at work is very topical, with millions of workers being signed sick off with it and equal numbers of employers denying its existence.

Reported incidents of stress in the workplace have been increasing. Over the last five years nearly 56m working days in the UK have been lost to stress-related illnesses. Although these figures fell between 2007/8 and 2009/10 from well over 13m to just under 10m, they have started to rise again to over 10m for both 2010/11 and 2011/12, according to a Labour Force Survey.

The article made the point that we should all be mindful of the impacts of work-related stress, what our employers should be doing about it and how the new buzzword – ‘resilience’ – fits into their agenda.

Like in Australia UK employers have a legal duty to risk assess any hazards in the workplace, and take steps to control the impacts. These hazards include stress and there are many ways this can manifest itself.

There are six main causes of work-related stress within the work environment that the employer needs to be aware of:

Demands: workloads, conflicting priorities, unrealistic deadlines, emotional demands
Control: how much say a worker has in the way they do their work
Support: the support and encouragement workers get from their employer, manager and colleagues
Relationships: this includes a positive working environment, procedures for managing conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
Role: managers ensuring workers understand their roles and that these roles do not conflict
Change: how employers manage and communicate organisational change including consultation.

Still, some employers seem to take the view that many employees are stressed at work due to a lack of mental fortitude to deal with everyday working life and just aren’t tough enough. So they offer resilience training to employees in order to help them cope better.

Research has found that developing and practicing coping strategies are totally appropriate in areas of work that are demanding or stressful by their nature – paramedics, police and firemen come to mind.

However the answer is managing the issues causing stress not to offer blanket training in resilience. It is the employer’s legal responsibility to eliminate or minimise the stressors. The duty is not on the employee to ‘cope better’.

Employers and managers should accept they have an obligation to manage stress and develop a stress management strategy in consultation with employees. This will inform them of where the stressors are, who are they affecting and what management controls can be implemented in order to minimise its effects.


Safety Concepts Awarded City Council Safety System Contract

IMS SMart Device 3Safety Concepts have been awarded the contract to supply a complete safety management software solution to Isaac Regional Council. Working closely with local government organisations Safety Concepts has developed an application specific solution based on the IMS Software used for many years by state government in Queensland.

The solution is called LOGOSS (Local Government Safety System) and uses a modular architecture to create functionality that meets the unique needs of a typical council or city authority

Councils must comply with WHS laws like anyone else but their needs are more complex due to the challenges of operating many disparate workplaces. Local Authority workplaces vary significantly and can range from rubbish recycling plants to roadwork sites, from libraries and municipal pools. All require a different approach but all must come together under one automated compliance workflow.

Managing Director of Safety Concepts Wayne Patterson said “We are delighted to be chosen by Isaac Regional Council as a partner in this project. They have unique compliance and risk management needs in this remote but dynamic community. One of the reasons Isaac Regional Council chose our software was for its ease of use and because it works out of the box with minimum configuration”.

“Most of the drop boxes, files and code tables are already populated”, said Mr Patterson, “making integration and installation of the software much faster and training much easier”.

“One key requirement of the client was that we are able to integrate with current solutions like payroll and HR software. In addition they wanted to see a future roadmap for adoption of a fully hosted interface using smart devices“.

“We felt comfortable meeting those requirements. Our system already integrates at a number of client sites with their payroll and work cover providers. We can work with any modern database and the only limit is how far the client can go with the third party provider”.

“The exciting thing was that our people had already developed a mobile application that is ready to be rolled out. This Safety App integrates with LOGOSS and works on any device without connection to a network.. That is going to be very attractive to any organisation with highly distributed workforce in remote locations.”

Isaac Region has a population of 250,000 people spread over 59,000 km in farm and grazing land stretching from the beaches of St Lawrence south of Mackay to mineral rich Bowen Basin with such iconic towns as Clermont, Dysart and Moranbah.



Aged Care Health And Safety Report Card

Aged Care 2Aged care workers in Australia are at a high risk of injury from performing manual handling tasks according to the latest Aged Care Workforce Survey.

More than 240,000 workers are employed in direct care roles in the aged care sector. Of these 147,000 work in residential facilities, and 93,350 in community outlets.

Personal Care Attendants comprise 68 per cent of the residential direct care workforce, while Community Care Workers comprise 81 per cent of the community direct care workforce.

The workforce is predominantly female, although males have increased their share in residential facilities. In both residential and community sectors, males now comprise 10 per cent of the direct care workforce.

The workforce is also generally older than the national workforce and ageing further, but the majority assess their health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.

Ensuring a safe workplace is important for care facilities because it reduces the time lost through injury or illness and enables employees to work at optimum levels for the required period of time.

Of the incidents reported by workers  more than 15 per cent of direct care workers had a work-related injury or illness during this period. The most commonly reported injuries are sprains/strains caused by activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling and bending (6% of all workers and 45% of those who reported), followed by chronic joint or muscle condition (4% of all workers and 26% of those who reported).

However, the next most common work-related injury or illness is stress or other mental condition which is reported by 3 per cent of all workers and 21 per cent of those who reported.

The study found that In 2012, more than three-quarters of aged care facilities reported a work-related injury or illness in the previous three months.

Due to the seriousness of the injury more than half of facilities had one or more employees on Workcover, which was 20 per cent higher than the previous census in 2007.

Compounding the negative impact of injury and illness on staff is the financial cost to the sector, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics has estimated to be around $59 million in 2012.

To reduce the rate of staff manual handling injuries, the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) conducted a national inspection program this year targeting health and safety compliance in residential aged care facilities.

The campaign was led by the Victorian WorkCover Authority but also involved work health and safety regulators in Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. Results from more than 350 workplace audits have been collated and a national report is currently being prepared for HWSA.

“Most facilities do need to improve how well they report and investigate manual task hazards and examine the risk factors to control them in future.


Construction Firms Fined for WHS Breach

Construction industryConstruction company John Holland has been fined $360,000 over the death of a worker at the Perth City Link rail project. In December 2011, an employee on a John Holland site was hit and killed by an out-of-control hi-rail vehicle that had been built by John Holland Rail.

The Federal Court found two John Holland entities breached the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  When handing down his judgement, the Judge found both companies could have done more to ensure safety in the manufacture and operation of hi-rail vehicles.


“The need to remind the first and third respondents of the importance of constant vigilance in relation to workplace safety is particularly important, because the first and third respondents operate in an industry which on a daily basis requires their employees to carry out inherently dangerous activities or to operate, and work in the vicinity of, vehicles which have the propensity to put their lives at risk,” the judgement said.  “Constant vigilance was not present in the circumstances of this tragic case.  “The result was that a man lost his life.”

The Federal Government’s workplace safety statutory authority Comcare welcomed the finding.  In a statement, Comcare regulatory operations group general manager said the court’s decision was a reminder to employers about the need to prioritise health and safety standards at Australian workplaces.

“Workplace tragedies have far reaching consequences and together we can work towards reducing the number of fatalities in Australian workplaces to zero,” Mr Quarmby said.  Comcare said the maximum penalty available to the Federal Court was $484,000.

In Canberra a construction firm will be the first to contest a work safety charge in the ACT Supreme Court, over the death of a man at a Macgregor worksite in 2011.  The 45 year old man died after he was hit by a reversing grader at a Macgregor worksite.

Canberra Contractors has pleaded not guilty to allegations it was negligent because it failed to provide adequate safety training and supervision under the 2008 Work Safety Act.

It is the first time a company has contested such charges in the Supreme Court.  If found guilty the group could face a maximum fine of more than $1 million under 2008 legislation.  Under present legislation introduced in 2012, the company would potentially face a much larger fine over the alleged offence.

The company has been charged under old workplace legislation, because the incident happened before tough new national laws were introduced.  An alternative charge of recklessness has also been laid.  The case was one of three deaths to come before the ACT’s Industrial court in recent months, although it was not clear if any others would end up in the Supreme Court.  The case is expected to return to court later this month.  A coronial inquiry into Mr Vickery’s death has been put off until next year.



What WHS Professionals Can Learn From TV Sitcom The Office

Office Safety… boring? Not if you’re Michael Scott, fictional boss of NBC’s “The Office” (2005 – 2013).

The Office, known for its cringe-worthy, realistic deadpan humor, became one of TV’s best comedies and was nominated for 42 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning five. The series focuses on the day-to-day operation of Dunder Mifflin, a regional paper company in Scranton Pennsylvania. Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, is the self-proclaimed “World’s Best Boss” and can do no wrong in his own mind. He loves himself, hates the HR rep Toby, and throws around one-liners like it’s his job. His antics are often hilarious to himself but painfully awkward to the rest of the company.

The Office was inspiration to create an infographic all about real office safety issues that companies everywhere need to be aware of. It’s presented from the perspective of Michael Scott and includes quotes and pictures from the show as well as plenty of educational information about the dangers of the workplace: