Work-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.