Eliminating risksWork-related fatalities are often associated with the unsafe design  of machinery, plant  and powered tools.

A lot of equipment used in Australian workplaces is designed and manufactured overseas. This can lead to inappropriate equipment being  brought to and used in Australia, because  of varying safety standards in other countries.

WorkSafe Victoria inspectors have seen a lot of unsafe equipment in use during workplace visits, most of which is imported from overseas. Rather  than just telling businesses  to fix the machine, WorkSafe recognised it would be better if the design  faults were  eliminated before purchase.

This led to WorkSafe developing an operational program called the ‘Supply Chain – Machinery’ program. The program collected information about unsafe machinery, investigated the risks along  the supply chains, and encouraged improved design  and manufacturing standards.

When  cases of poor  design  were  identified, WorkSafe Victoria worked with the designers, manufacturers, and suppliers of the machine as well as technical specialists, industry associations and other industry stakeholders to investigate and discuss best practice solutions.

The designers and manufacturers then  used those  insights from the program to improve the design  and safety of similar machines.

Example one: Safer dough moulders

Inspectors found that  dough moulders were  involved in a number of serious injuries. WorkSafe worked with manufacturers, suppliers, technical specialists and the industry association, the Bakers Association, on practical control solutions. The Bakers Association then  advised its members about the solutions as well as providing them with general  advice  on safety issues to consider when  buying new equipment.

Example two: Chinese hoists

There were  safety problems found with hoists produced by a Chinese manufacturer. WorkSafe worked with the local Victorian supplier to contact the overseas  manufacturer. Once the manufacturer was educated on the identified risks and how  these could be controlled, they  worked with the designer to alter the design  of future models. As the manufacturer wished to continue to sell similar  models in Australia, they  were  pleased  the fault had been identified and resolved.

The strength of WorkSafe’s operational approach is its ability to quickly identify serious risks associated with commonly used items and then  coordinate responses to try to eliminate all known instances of that  risk. Importantly, if a machinery risk is common across an entire  industry, the assistance of industry associations is sought to tell their  members about the risk and control options.

By eliminating the risk at its source, WorkSafe are reducing the incidents associated with unsafe machines.

By working with industry associations, WorkSafe has been able to get the important messages  about risks associated with unsafe machines out to workplaces. Two  approaches used by WorkSafe are:

  • Provision of practical information and advice  on prioritising safety in procurement processes.
  • Targeted mail outs to workplaces identified as having purchased items of unsafe machinery in advance of further compliance activities.

What’s next for the ‘Supply Chain – Machinery’ program?

Risks associated with machines used in Victoria are likely to be the same elsewhere. Sharing  information with other regulators about unsafe equipment, whether these are produced locally or imported can save lives. WorkSafe Victoria is continuing to build an information sharing  network.

Businesses want  to know what  safety features to look for when buying new equipment. WorkSafe Victoria will assist business by providing information relevant to safety in procurement practices.

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers have legal obligations under  all work health and safety laws. WorkSafe Victoria is working to educate these groups so they  know their  duties and how  to comply with their  obligations.

For more  information visit the WorkSafe Victoria website or call 1800 136 089.

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