Managing Risks of Plant – WHS Guide
What is “plant”?
The definition of plant from the WHS regulations includes “machinery, equipment, appliances, containers, implements and tools…”.
Some examples could be:
- Mobile plant (e.g. forklifts)
- Power tools
Hand tools that are not powered (e.g. hammers) are not included in this definition.
What risks do plant pose?
Many types of plant pose serious risks to health and safety. If left uncontrolled, these hazards can quite often result in serious or fatal injuries. Risks posed by plant can include:
- Crush / Pinch Injuries
- Suspended Loads (for lifting plant)
- Electrocution / Electrical Hazards
- Rollover (for mobile plant)
- Vehicle Collision
- Hearing Damage
What legal duties are there for plant?
There are duties placed on PCBUs that manage or control plant (e.g. the owner of a warehouse whose workers use forklifts). These legal duties are quite extensive but in essence, require the PCBU to ensure that risks associated with the plant are managed ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable). Legal duties in relation to PCBUs that manage or control plant are included in the following sections of the WHS Legislation:
- WHS Act section 19 Primary Duty of Care
- WHS Regulation section 203 Management of risks to health and safety
- WHS Regulation section 204 Control of risks arising from installation or commissioning
- WHS Regulation section 205 Preventing unauthorized alterations to plant
- WHS Regulation section 206 Proper use of plant and controls
- WHS Regulation section 207 Plant not in use
- WHS Regulation section 208 Guarding
- WHS Regulation section 209 Guarding and insulation from heat and cold
- WHS Regulation section 210 Operational controls
- WHS Regulation section 211 Emergency stops
- WHS Regulation section 212 Warning devices
- WHS Regulation section 213 Maintenance and inspection of plant
There are also legal duties placed on PCBUs that may not use plant in their workplace but are otherwise involved in the design, import or supply of plant. As with the duties for PCBUs that manage or control plant, the duties for designers, importers and suppliers in essence require that PCBU ensure that risks associated with that plant are reduced ALARP. Legal duties in relation to PCBUs that design, import or supply plant are included in the following sections of the WHS Legislation:
- WHS Act section 22 Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that design plant, substances or structures
- WHS Act section 23 Duties of persons conducting business or undertakings that manufacture plant, substances or structures
- WHS Act section 24 Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that import plant, substances or structures
- WHS Act section 25 Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that supply plant, substances or structures
- WHS Act section 26 Duties of persons conducting businesses or undertakings that install, construct or commission plant or structures
How to identify plant hazards and risks
Proper hazard identification and risk assessment conducted on plant should be undertaken to identify in what ways operators or other workers may be injured. If plant poses serious risks to health and safety, a documented and thorough risk assessment should be undertaken by a competent person. This risk assessment aims to identify risks that the plant poses, including:
- Cutting, Stabbing or Puncturing
- High-Pressure Fluid
- Tripping, Slipping or Falling
- High Temperature or Fire
- Other Hazards (e.g. chemicals, toxic gases or vapours, noise, vibration, radiation)
The hazards/risks identified are then assessed using a risk matrix, scoring the risk seriousness according to how severe the impact or potential harm is and the likelihood that any exposure to the hazard will cause injury (i.e. consequence and likelihood).
How to control plant WHS risks
As with all WHS risks, the hazard should be managed in accordance with the Hierarchy of Controls, with levels of protection higher in the hierarchy preferred over lower levels.
Some potential risk control measures for managing WHS hazards associated with plant in the workplace include:
- Providing Information – Ensuring workers are provided with the operator’s manual, SWMS / SOPs and risk assessments.
- Consulting with Workers – Ensuring workers are consulted in relation to the risks posed by plant and allowing workers to take part in the risk management process.
- Instruction, Supervision and Training – Ensure workers have High-Risk Work Licenses where required or RTO / VOC training for other plant and adequate supervision is provided for new or inexperienced workers.
- Maintenance – Ensuring plant is well maintained and no unsafe or illegal adjustments are made.
- Guarding – Ensuring adequate guarding is installed.
- Emergency Stops – Ensuring emergency stops are installed.
- Warning Devices – Ensuring warning devices are installed (e.g. flashing lights, reverse beepers).
- Isolation Points – Ensuring isolation points are provided and functional.
- Storage – Ensuring plant is stored in a safe manner.
- Spotters – Ensuring spotters are provided when plant is operating in high-traffic areas or near power lines
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