Plant and Equipment – What is my responsibility?

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What is my responsibility to safety legislation? And how is this achievable?

Are the questions each small to medium business owner is asking themselves. The message is simple, but many businesses don’t know what their responsibilities are.

Over the past three years there have been more than 140,000 injuries in NSW workplaces as a result of using plant incorrectly. More than 5,800 workers were permanently disabled and 121 died.

As an employer who owns plant and equipment, it is extremely important to have safe systems in place.

So what are the basic fundamentals to plant and equipment safety?

Legislation states that plant and equipment under your control must be kept in a safe working order and businesses must have records to show evidence of this. In addition, employees using the equipment must have the appropriate qualifications and be trained and inducted in its safe use.

What does this all mean?

Let me give you an example of a company that uses a forklift in their warehouse. Forklifts are a dangerous plant item and one of the top plant items that cause fatalities in the workplace. So if you have a forklift, what is your responsibility?

Firstly, to operate a forklift you need to have a forklift licence, therefore any employee using the forklift MUST have a forklift licence which should be kept in a register easily accessed if investigated. To allow an employee to operate a forklift without a licence is not only dangerous but also opening your business to potential litigation. If there is an incident and it is investigated by Safe Work NSW (Formerly WorkCover) and they find the person operating the forklift did not have a licence, expect the book to be thrown at you, which will most likely cause you to lose your business.

Secondly, the forklift MUST be kept in a safe working order, and you should have records of any maintenance undertaken. Developing regular maintenance checks and servicing of the forklift is an absolute must. If there is an incident in relation to a plant item Safe Work NSW will definitely check the maintenance records. You will also need to make sure that the company undertaking your maintenance is qualified to do so and is insured. A great and simple way to see what maintenance is needed for the plant item is look at the items User Manual as it should have a maintenance and service section highlighting what needs to be done and when. If you do not have the user manual then go to the manufacturer’s website, where in most cases, you can download a user manual.

Thirdly, you will need to induct any employees in the safe operating practice of using the plant item and into safety in their environment. You need to keep records of these inductions as evidence in a lawsuit. Again, you can source Safe Operating Procedures from the manufacturer if needed.

Fourthly, the environment the forklift works in is the warehouse, so risk assessments on the safe operating use must be undertaken. Designated walkways should be implemented to keep warehouse workers and pedestrians away from the forklift. Signage should be erected, high visibility vests worn by employees who enter the warehouse and bollards in front of doorways leading into the warehouse should be erected. All these provide a barrier between employee and the forklift and lessens the risks of potential injury. Employees should be inducted into all the warehouse safe work procedures to reduce the likelihood of incidents.

In conclusion, your responsibilities to plant items under your control are:

  1. Make sure the employee has the correct qualifications to use the machine
  2. Make sure to maintain the plant item in a safe working order
  3. Have safe operating procedures for the plant item
  4. Undertake a risk assessment of the plant items environment and develop control measures to reduce the likelihood of injury
  5. Induct and train your staff on all the above
  6. Keep records to show compliance and your efforts.

You can manage this in a manual paper way process, but using an online system such as Online WHS can help take the stress out of this through automation and simplicity of use.

Online WHS can:

  • Manage the plant items maintenance dates and alert
  • Induct and train employees using the system
  • Develop checklists where an employee only has to scan a QR Code to undertake a pre-start checklist or also enter any maintenance needed for the plant item
  • Provide you all the information needed to use the plant item.

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