A court decision in Melbourne Australia has highlighted the value of a sound risk assessment process.
Work Cover insurance took a business dealing in protective linings made from plastics, ceramic and rubber to court.
Three of the business’s employees were working inside a confined space. They subsequently suffered exposure to a dangerous level of contaminate from the glue they were using. The mixture was a hazardous chemical.
Initially, one worker was rendered unconscious by the adhesive’s fumes. Another worker, on entering the area in a bid to rescue the first worker, also became unconscious. A third worker, on a further rescue attempt, likewise became affected by the fumes.
Emergency services were called to the scene to assist the workers. Thankfully, there were no long-term disabilities. However, this did not stop the ensuing court action against the business.
In its determination, the Court found that there was a threat of death to the workers as a result of the chemical exposure in the confined space.
No Risk Assessment Process and Inadequate Training
The court found that the business failed to identify the risk in a risk assessment. It also found that there were “significant defects” in the provision of training to the workers.
One worker only received on-the-job training. Likewise, the second worker received NO information, instruction or training on the tasks he was performing.
As a result, the Court fined the business $30,000 and costs of $4,096.
In a higher Court appeal, this sentence was found to be inadequate. Subsequently, there was an increase of the fine to $55,000 plus costs for the appeal was the result.
What could have been done?
The job carried a distinct and significant risk which the business did not assess.
A simple risk assessment process could identify those potential hazards. As a result, assessing the risk and designing controls to eliminate the hazards or reduce their risk would follow.
The business owners should have known that hazardous fumes and confined spaces are a lethal mix. Potentially, operating in this environment could have led to workers deaths.
It would have cost peanuts to implement adequate safety measures, but as it was, it cost dearly.
An effective risk assessment process is a vital part of operating any business.
Health And Safety Is About HAZARDS
Remember; health and safety management is all about HAZARDS. It’s hazards that kill and maim people.
A risk assessment process identifies those hazards, assesses the likelihood of them happening and the consequences if they do. Additionally, it then enables control measures to be initiated to eliminate the hazards or reduce their risk.
Unfortunately, many businesses see the risk assessment process as time-consuming and a waste of resources. However, it’s invaluable for creating a safe workplace. In particular, it proves business owners and managers are complying with the law.
Simple WorkSafe with its wizard-based risk assessment process can simplify hazard management. Similarly, through its suite of management tools, it can help manage all other aspects of health and safety.