The North Queensland work health and safety inspector and safety risks a snapshot in time

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1 The North Queensland work health and safety inspector and safety risks a snapshot in time Kylie Geary CQUniversity Australia Abstract An industry project was undertaken with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. The project identified the risks to which the North Queensland Work Health and Safety (WHS) Inspector was exposed. The risks were identified through observation and consultation with the WHS Inspector and recorded within a risk register. Policies and procedures were examined to identify areas in which improvements could be made to increase risk minimisation. Key risks identified were working alone, fatigue whilst driving and travelling in remote and isolated areas. It was found that WHSQ has policies to minimise the risk but improvements such as personal alarm devices and global positioning system devices could be utilised to further minimise the risk to WHS Inspectors whilst performing their duties. Keywords: workplace health and safety inspector, working alone, driving, fatigue, remote travel, global positioning system, personal alarm devices

2 1 Introduction An agreement with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) was initiated in response to an assessment requirement of CQUnversity. The agreement allowed for an industry placement project to be undertaken by a CQUniversity student. In summary, the project examined the risk management processes utilised within WHSQ to manage the safety risks which the WHS Inspector is exposed. 1.1 Background on Industry and company Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) is the health and safety regulator for the state of Queensland and administers the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act The organisation has been in existence, under various forms, since the beginning of safety law in Queensland. The current organisational structure places WHSQ within Queensland Treasury. WHSQ operates within five regional areas and is overseen by a central office based in Brisbane. The regional areas include Northern Queensland, Central, South West, Brisbane North and Brisbane South. Within Queensland, in the year , there were 210 field-active Workplace Health and Safety Inspectors and Advisors, this equates to 1.1 field staff for every employees in Queensland (Safe Work Australia, 2014a, p.16). The work of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Inspector involves both reactive and proactive work. The reactive work relates to incident and complaint investigations whilst the proactive work relates to engagement activities. The engagement activities involve conducting audits on industries which have been identified as having workers compensation claims rates above the regional average and providing workshops to these industries and others relating to aspects of safety management systems implementation and hazard management. 1.2 Scope of Project The scope of this industry project was limited to the North Queensland (NQ) Region of WHSQ where currently there are 23 field active inspectors incorporating 16 Inspectors in the Cairns area and 7 Inspectors in the Townsville area. The project was limited to a timeframe of four weeks and therefore the findings are a snapshot of the risks identified during that time. The project examined the risk management processes utilised within WHSQ to manage the safety risks to which the WHS Inspector involved in engagement activities were exposed. Consideration was also given, during the project, to the policies and processes which were currently in place to eliminate or minimise the risk to the WHS Inspector and recommendations were made for improvement. These risks were included in a risk register. 2 Issue being addressed Safe Work Australia (2014b, p. 4) report that in the period the serious injury rates for the industry of Government Administration and Defence which includes all central, state and local government administrative activities, was 8.2 serious claims per 1000 employees. Serious claim are claims which involve a death or a serious incapacity which prevents the worker from work of one working week or more (Safe Work Australia 2014b, 2014, p. 1). During the project four workplace visits were undertaken with Inspectors to observe the risks associated with their work. Further research was conducted through consultative approach in which Inspectors were asked to identify areas in which they felt needed improvement in minimising risk to themselves whilst undertaking their work. The workplace visits were conducted within the recreational services, health and community services, retail and wholesale and manufacturing industries. The potential risks at the time of these visits involved working around moving plant and exposure to excessive noise. Both of these risks were managed effectively and therefore the risks to the Inspector were low. Access to the inspection area was completed safely through the separation of moving plant and pedestrian access ways and exposure to excessive noise was managed by the Inspector wearing the appropriate hearing protection. In addition, during each of the visits the employer or health and safety representative, who was familiar with the worksite hazards, accompanied the Inspector.

3 However, many of the hazards/risks identified which may need improvement were revealed through consulting with the WHS Inspectors. Key risks that were identified were the risks associated with Inspectors working alone, fatigue when driving and working and driving in remote areas. Each of these risks had been identified by the Department and have policies and processes in place to manage the risk, however there is room for improvement and these risks can be further minimised by investing in newer technology. 3 Details of Solution 3.1 Working alone Inspectors are often required to work alone. Much of the work within the engagement team involves WHS Inspectors pre-planning audits and therefore notifying the employer that a visit will take place. However, there are times which require the Inspector to work after hours and visit workplaces unannounced in order to investigate a complaint or incident. In each of these cases it is likely that contraventions to the work health and safety legislation have occurred and there is a need for the Inspector to take enforcement action. This enforcement action may increase the risk of the Inspector being verbally or physically abused. Queensland Government (2014, p.5) report that hazards which give rise to the experience of work-related violence include working alone and that measures should be put in place to control the risk. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE, n.d.) endorse altering the job design allowing for two people to attend workplaces which have a high chance for the need of enforcement action. However, it is acknowledged that whilst having more than one worker attend each site does not negate the risk of being exposed to threatening behaviour, it does tend to minimise the risk (Brennan 2012). To minimise the risk to the Inspector a risk assessment is carried out by the Manager to determine the necessity for an Inspector, or more than one Inspector, to attend the site. However, the Manager is only able to conduct this risk assessment on information provided by the complainant or notifier. Therefore the Manager may not fully be aware of all the contraventions on site and enforcement action which needs to be taken. There is a reliance on the Inspector conducting a risk assessment of personal safety once on site. The Department s Workplace Policy specifies that there is a zero tolerance for aggressive and threatening behaviour and it encourages its employees to discontinue their interaction with the aggressor if personal safety is compromised. The situation is then to be reported to the Manager. Therefore, the WHS Inspector always has the right to leave the site. The WHS Inspector is issued with a mobile phone and communications between the WHS Inspector who is on site and the Manager are completed this way. However, in some circumstances, which may be rare, there may be times when the WHS Inspector is unable to phone due to the threatening circumstances they are experiencing. A way to minimise this risk further is to issue WHS inspectors with a personal alarm device. There are many types of personal alarm devices available including devices which pair to an application on a smart mobile phone. This personal alarm device is also relevant for times when the inspector is called out after hours. This device can also be used to advise the on-call manager when they are on site, when they have left the site and even when they have returned home by pressing a button. 3.2 Driving and fatigue The distances required to be travelled in North Queensland are vast and often times this travel is required to be conducted by motor vehicle and sometimes alone. These risks are at times compounded by the need for the Inspector to attend a worksite after hours which may be during the night or on weekends. Driving these vast distances increases the risk and experience of fatigue. Two Departmental policies exist which gives guidance to the Manager and WHS Inspector regarding management of fatigue. These policies are titled Fatigue Management and Fatigue Leave Entitlements and Travel to and Driving, Road and Travel Safety- The policy includes a direction to stop every two hours for a minimum of ten minutes to rest and stretch the body in order to invigorate tired muscles. This policy can be improved by including the use of technology which allows for notifications to be made and sent through mobile technology such as smart phones or computer tablets to remind staff to have a rest when they have been driving for the specified policy time frame of two hours. These rest breaks can be monitored by the supervisor or manager to ensure that breaks are taken.

4 3.3 Remote travel Remote and long distance travel is conducted from time to time. Usually this travel is pre-planned and a minimum of two inspectors are assigned to undertake this travel if it is part of an audit campaign. However, the risks to safety in this instance relate to being away from mobile phone service. The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 specify that workers who are working remotely or in isolation need to have effective communications systems in place. A policy exists which gives direction on steps to follow if required to travel to and from isolated locations. This policy is titled Travel to and From Isolated Locations. The control measures specified include the submission of travel plans to the manager and ensuring that the vehicle is equipped in the event of breakdowns. There is also a reliance on the WHS Inspector to contact the duty manager at least twice a day to establish current whereabouts. As discussed, there are remote areas where mobile phone service is not available and the Inspector is not able to contact the office. Currently, a satellite phone is used in these circumstances however a Global Positioning System (GPS) device would be a resource which would be a valuable addition to the Inspector. The GPS can also be a facility which is present on a personal alarm device. 4. Evidence for Solutions A necessary step of the risk management process is to review the effectiveness of current controls in order to continually improve safety management (Queensland Government, p. 19, 2011). The review allows for investigations to take place in order to identify new and up to date ways to control risks. Advancement in technologies are continual and the management of the risks relating to Inspector work can benefit from investigations and implementation of these new technologies. Queensland Government (2014, p.4) report that work related violence is most common in industries where people are required to work with the public. Personal alarm devices and global position system devices are being utilised more and more within industry. Musick (2015, p. 58) refers to an organisation in which these technological systems were implemented. The results from the implementation led to the organisation not having a single emergency incident since the devices were purchased. The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom are also using these devices to minimise the risk of violence to their employees (NHS Staff Council, 2010). One of the ways in which hazards can be identified is through reviewing available information which is relevant to the industry and type of work being performed (Queensland Government, 2011, p.10). There have been a number of incidents which have occurred where the outcome has worsened due to the absence of the ability to communicate with emergency services. Steemson (2015, p.24) refers to an incident in which a quad bike had overturned on a slope causing the operator to sustain serious injuries to the pelvis. The operator was not detected as being missing until 52 hours later; his body was found in a separate field to the accident. It was assumed that as he had no communications systems available to him to contact emergency services he had attempted to seek help by alerting a family in a nearby farmhouse. The issue of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device or personal alarm device would have given the farm worker a better chance of survival. This example highlights the risk to workers who are working in remote and isolated areas which at times can include the WHS Inspector. 5. Outcomes of Project The project met the purpose of the project proposal as it highlighted the risks which the WHS Inspector was exposed to over a four week period. The major outcome of the proposal was the development of a risk register where risks were identified and current control measures were listed. The project identified that there were policies and processes in place to minimise the risks to the Departments employees. However, it was also identified that these policies can be improved upon through the use of current technologies.

5 References Brennan, W 2012 Managing the risks to lone workers, Occupational Health, vol. 64, no. 12, pp Health and Safety Executive n.d. Environment inspectors work related case studies, viewed 26 August Musick, T 2015 Lone Worker Safety, Safety and Health, Vol. 192, No. 2, p Queensland Government, Department of Justice and Attorney General 2011, How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011, viewed 3 October Queensland Government, Department of Justice and Attorney General 2014, Preventing and responding to work-related violence, viewed 25 August Safe Work Australia 2014a, Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, 16 th edn, viewed 2 October 2015, Safe Work Australia 2014b, Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia, viewed 28 September 2015, Steemson, J 2015 Lone workers, The RoSPA Occupational Safety and Health Journal, vol. 45, no. 1, pp The NHS Staff Council 2010, Improving safety for lone workers a guide for lone workers, viewed on 3 October _workers_guide_final.pdf Legislation Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011 Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011

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