Why safety equipment is crucial for WA businesses
All workplace environments have health and safety risks. However, certain Australian industries face more safety challenges than others.
According to Safe Work Australia, around 200 people die every year in workplace-related incidents. As at 10 October 2019, 121 Australians have lost their lives at work so far this year.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing are the industries that see the highest number of deaths, but this varies considerably by state. The mining industry, for example, is responsible for almost twice as many deaths in Western Australia than it is in any other state, in cumulative figures for the period 2007-2016.
How can organisations better protect their workers?
Australian workplace safety statistics
A report produced by the Government of Western Australia's Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety breaks these figures down further.
- Truck drivers are the highest-risk occupation.
- Being hit by falling objects accounts for 20% of deaths, being hit by moving objects accounts for 16%. Vehicle incidents and a fall from height are close behind.
- When categorised according to major occupation, over 70% of fatalities occur in just three groups - Machinery Operators and Drivers, Labourers, and Technicians and Trades Workers.
- Workers aged 45 years and over are at significantly higher risk than younger workers.
- Metal Ore Mining and Agriculture are the industries that see the most fatalities in the state.
- Typically, fatalities are classed under the Occupational Safety and Health 1984. Next most likely is the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994. Rarely do incidents fall within the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990.
What are the biggest safety on-site safety risks?
The same report identifies equipment repeatedly involved in the most common causes of death. For the 20% of fatalities caused by falling objects, equipment commonly involved included forklift trucks, cranes, trucks and lorries. Graders, dozers, snowploughs and other scraping plants also contributed highly.
Tractors, trucks, trailers, lorries long-handling plants are cited as examples of the equipment involved in accidents caused by moving objects, with vehicles as whole being involved in 47% of these deaths.
Protecting workers with an effective health and safety infrastructure
One of the challenges is the range of risk some businesses have to account for. There are visually obvious safety risks associated with heavy equipment or machinery. However, some risks are less obvious to those lacking relevant training and knowledge, including:
- Hearing damage through excessive noise.
- Coal dust inhalation.
- Heavy lifting and repetitive strain injuries.
- Vibrational damage.
- Chemical hazards.
By the same token, there isn't just one way of protecting against on-site safety hazards and the most appropriate methods for protection vary according to the type of risk.
Safe Work Australia has built on detailed research to create the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022. Their recommendations highlight that:
- Hazards and risks are best controlled at their source.
- Prevention is key, and these efforts should focus on reducing or eradicating hazards.
- Risks should be adequately assessed so they can be managed accordingly.
- Health and safety works best when embedded in organisational culture. All parties are responsible but leaders have a significant role to play.
The strategy also highlights that health and safety checks must apply to supply chains and other networks. Appropriate training around identifying risks must be included in future training and education programs, and managers must be confident in their ability to spot potential hazards.
On-site safety equipment, products and protocol
Personal Protection Equipment
As well as identifying and managing areas of risk, workers must be equipped with the materials they need to protect themselves during their working day. Personal protection equipment (PPE) includes any form of protective equipment that individual workers use on a per person basis, such as:
- Protective footwear, required on sites with heavy machinery and equipment or uneven conditions.
- Goggles, ear plugs, face masks, gloves or respiratory protectors.
- Protective clothing including heavy-duty wear, fire-retardant fabrics, hard hats and items that offer chemical protection.
- High-visibility clothing such as vests.
Height safety equipment
In industries where working at height is common, such as construction, organisations should consider relevant safety products such as anchors, harnesses and industrial tripods.
Health and safety signage
Safety signage is essential in order to highlight areas of danger both for regular workers and visitors. It is also used to ensure site-specific emergency procedures or operational guidelines are always within reach. They may need to be visual, or available in multiple languages.
General safety equipment
On many sites, customised safety equipment is required to protect from hazards specific to the organisation. Additional items include barriers, guards, bollards and mirrors.
Workplace Health and Safety Regulations
Businesses are obliged to ensure safe work premises, assess and manage risk, and provide suitable working environments and facilities. They are also responsible for ongoing maintenance of machinery and materials, as well as make sure goods and substances are handled safely. Some laws are industry-specific, and non-compliance can result in prosecution.
Investing in appropriate safety equipment
It's essential that companies provide the highest standard of safety equipment available and replace machinery that doesn't pass routine inspection. For SMEs with limited financial resource, Classic Funding Group offer competitive equipment finance deals to help Australian businesses better protect workers.