The second criteria that you need to satisfy in order for you to complete the first element of the competency unit and to get your Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety is to determine WHS needs and priorities in consultation with relevant managers and other workplace stakeholders and key personnel.
The next thing to consider in prioritising WHS for planning is the nature of hazards and risks.
Nature of Hazards and Risks
What hazards and risks should be prioritised in the planning process? Many organisations focus on the causes of Lost Time Injuries and Diseases (LTI/Ds) in their planning as their effects can be seen and counted.
While it is important to address all causes of injury, the folly of focusing on LTI/Ds has been demonstrated in the investigations of disasters such as the gas plant explosion at Longford (Hopkins, 2000) and the Texas City Refinery explosion (Hopkins, 2008). In each case a focus on LTI/Ds at the expense of more critical risks* led the management to ignore risks with a high potential consequence but where the occurrence of such incidents was much less frequent. A focus on LTI/Ds also ignores the hazards likely to impact on health.
This is where the input of the WHS practitioner is important in enabling those involved in strategic planning to understand how hazards cause injury and ill-health and so how they should be prioritised in strategic planning.
The learning guide for the competency BSBOHS403 Identify hazards and assess OHS risk introduced the definition of a hazard as a ‘source of potentially damaging energy’. This definition is more useful in understanding and identifying critical risk than the commonly used definition of a hazard a ‘source of potential harm’. When using the concepts of energy to think about hazards and risk, some types of energy, and their mechanism of causing damage, are more likely to cause high consequence outcomes (serious injury, death, destruction of property), while other types of energy and mechanism may be more likely to impact on health. High magnitudes of energy are more likely to lead to more serious consequences.
Status and Effectiveness of Current WHS Activities
So far the planning process has focused on where we want to be: the vision, the mission and the goals. But before the plan can be developed we have to assess where we are now and so identify the gap between where we are now and where we want to be a ‘gap analysis’.
The sort of questions we might ask are:
- What hazards are in the workplace?
- What are the critical risks?
- What controls are in place for these hazards and risks? How effective and reliable are these controls?
- What are the legal obligations regarding WHS?
- Are we at least compliant with the legal obligations?
- How do we compare with industry standards?
- What are our strengths in WHS? What are our weaknesses?
- What external changes (eg: legislation, economy) might occur in the future that may impact on WHS?
- What internal changes (eg: new technology, organisational re-structure, skills shortage, changes to management) might occur that could impact on WHS?
Answering these questions requires access to various external and internal sources of information.
Good planning requires good information. Any major review or development of a strategic plan will usually involve a WHS audit. People at all levels of the organisation, and across a number of functions will have information relevant to the plan.
The importance of worker input to the planning process is reflected in the WHS legislation which has the requirement that workers be given a reasonable opportunity to:
- express their views and to raise work health and safety matters;
- contribute to the decision-making process relating to work health and safety matters.
This consultation should occur when:
- identifying hazards and risks;
- making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise the risks; and
- when proposing changes that may affect the health or safety of workers. (“Model Work Health and Safety Bill,” 2009, s 47,48)
A strategic plan is not just a piece of paper; it has to be implemented. Thus we want managers and key people to have some ownership of the plan and so be motivated to implement the plan.
‘People’ sources of information in strategic planning for WHS are stakeholders, key personnel, technical advisers and WHS specialists.
Stakeholders are those people or organisations who may be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by an activity or decision. Stakeholders in workplace WHS include:
- health and safety and other worker representatives;
- health and safety committees;
- workers and contractors; and
- the community.
Key personnel are people who are involved in WHS decision-making or who are affected by decisions. These may include:
- contract management; and
WHS technical advisers are persons providing specific technical knowledge or expertise in areas related to WHS and may include:
- risk managers;
- health professionals;
- injury management advisers;
- legal practitioners with experience in WHS;
- engineers (such as design, acoustic, mechanical, civil);
- security and emergency response personnel;
- workplace trainers and assessors; and
- maintenance and trade persons.
WHS specialists are persons who specialise in one of the many disciplines that make up WHS, including:
- safety professionals (generalists who are most likely to be consulted on management issues); and
- hazard specific specialists such as:
- occupational hygienists;
- safety engineers;
- toxicologists; and
- work health professionals.
Published by: LMIT