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SOURCING AND USING INFORMATION AND DATA
There is usually a vast range of information within all organisations. This information is there to support the organisation’s goals and objectives, (developed through a business plan that evolves with the organisation), to assist managers and team members in day to day operations, i.e. Codes of practice, Standards, decision making and performance management. There will also be information on products and services the organisation provides, programs, customer databases……… and the list goes on. This information is referred to as Internal Sources .
As well as internal sources, information can be found outside the organisation. This information is referred to as External Sources .
Regular team meetings and discussions are one of the ways this information can be sourced. Other internal and external gathering of information comes from industry knowledge. Standards, codes of practice, preferred presentation and other contributing factors in how your business carries out its work, are all good sources.
To gather internal source information, you could use or consult:
The sources of workplace information for the management of WHS can also be divided into 2 headings: 1. Paper ; and 2. People .
1. INFORMATION ON PAPER
Hazard, incident and injury reports Investigation reports Workplace inspections Maintenance records Risk registers Minutes of meetings Job safety analyses (JSA) Risk assessments Work procedures including standard operating procedures (SOP)
Reports and audits Sick leave and personnel records Organisational data such as insurance records, enforcement notices and actions, workers’ compensation data Collated information such as trend analyses of incident and injury reports, WHS performance data Safety data sheets (SDS), chemical registers Manufacturers’ manuals and specifications
2. INFORMATION FROM PEOPLE
Sources of information for management of WHS under the ‘People’ category include stakeholders, key personnel, and technical advisers and WHS specialists.
Key personnel are people who are involved in WHS decision-making or who are affected by decisions. These may include: Quality Purchasing Contract management Finance WHS specialists are people who specialise in one of the many disciplines that make up WHS including: Safety professionals Ergonomists, occupational hygienists Audiologists Safety engineers Toxicologists Occup tional health professionals
Stakeholders – those people or organisations who may be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by an activity or decision. Stakeholders in workplace WHS include:
Managers Supervisors Health and safety and other worker representatives HS committees Workers and contractors The community
WHS technical advisers are people providing specific technical knowledge or expertise in areas related to WHS and may include:
Health professionals, injury management advisers
Legal practitioners with experience in WHS
Engineers (such as design; acoustic; mechanical; civil)
Security and emergency response personnel
Workplace trainers and assessors
Maintenance and tradespersons
Occasionally it may be necessary to consult external sources, such as consultants, suppliers, manufacturers, maintenance contractors, contractors with a specific skill employed to complete a certain task, lawyers and many others, to enable a team project to be completed. You will need to discuss and research which outside sources are appropriate for your organisation. When using external sources there will be several factors relevant to your industry that you should consider :
Can they meet time frames required? Costs involved Quality and standards of the external organisation Codes of conduct Licence requirements etc
One of the most reliable sources of external information about WHS legislation is the relevant workplace legislative body in the state or territory the PCBU operates in (for example, the relevant Department of Industrial Relations). These bodies can provide information about the Acts pertinent to their state and industry and of their applications. Some of these sources can provide legislative and regulatory advice. Many of them offer health and training support materials. They might also offer interactive online learning for managers and PCBUs. The websites will lead to other relevant health and safety links. Health and safety information specific to the workplace and to the processes or operations within the workplace will also be needed. This can come from either formal or informal sources. Some organisations are more open with their information than others. The sources or available information might therefore, vary from one organisation to another. Information particular to an industry or occupation can be gathered from external sources.
Organisations providing hazard specific information
In addition to Safe Work Australia and the state WHS regulators, there are government and non- government organisations that provide hazard-specific information.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), as part of the Health and Ageing Portfolio, is a Federal Government agency charged with responsibility for protecting the health and safety of people, and the environment, from the harmful effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation . The ARPANSA website has useful information such as ‘Radiation Basics’ and ‘Radiation Health Facts’. Information ranges from mobile phones, radiation in the home, lasers in the classroom, entertainment and construction, to radiation in health and nuclear physics.
The Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) is the national body for energy supply companies. The ESAA Health and Safety Network deals with occupational health and safety affecting workers of the electricity industry. Most states also have a regulatory body for electrical safety (for example: Energy Safe Victoria, www.esv.vic.gov.au ) and electrical supply companies are often good sources of information on electrical hazards. The National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) undertakes scientific investigations into hearing, hearing loss and rehabilitation, and the prevention of hearing loss. The NAL is the research division of Australian Hearing, a Commonwealth Government Authority under the Department of Human Services. Much of its research is performed as a community service obligation funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. The results of this work are published in leading peer-reviewed journals and are available at no cost or at nominal cost to clinicians and other users of the research. Some additional research is performed in collaboration with commercial organisations from the hearing rehabilitation and hearing protection industries. The website contains many useful references on understanding occupational hearing loss and its prevention.
The website for the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage has a National Chemical Information Gateway with links to websites and databases organised in categories such as household chemicals, exposure and safety, chemicals by name, chemicals in agriculture, chemicals and human health, regulators and legislation, international portals and chemical databases. The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) is the Australian Government regulator for industrial chemicals and is located within the Australian Government Health and Ageing portfolio, in the Office of Chemical Safety. Established in 1990, NICNAS provides a national notification and assessment scheme to protect the health of the public, workers and the environment from the harmful effect of industrial chemicals. In addition to over 1,400 scientific assessment reports, NICNAS produces a number of useful publications including a newsletter, general information sheets and information sheets on specific chemicals. www.nicnas.gov.au
The website for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing has a range of information and extensive references on specific biological hazards and communicable diseases and guidelines for their management - www.health.gov.au
The statutory body responsible for workplace safety, rehabilitation and compensation in the Commonwealth jurisdiction, Comcare, has a stress and psychological injury portal on its website www.comcare.gov.au
This site gives information and links on topics such as:
Practical information on identifying and assessing risk, implementing a prevention program, managing change
Case studies, research and related topics
Injury databases provide information on the causation and frequency of injuries and thus may help identify hazards and assess risk. The Compendium of Workers' Compensation Statistics, Australia, a series of publications that presents nationally comparable workers' compensation statistics based on the national data set. The Compendium Series provides an overall picture of Australia’s WHS performance by industry and occupation as well as some trend data. The Series also provides information on the circumstances surrounding work-related injury and disease. More detailed information to supplement the statistics in the Series is available from the Safe Work Australia Online Statistics Interactive Database of National Workers' Compensation (NOSI). The Safe Work Australia NOSI database contains workers' compensation statistics, based on the National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics. Users can interrogate the database to produce a variety of reports to their own design on the number, incidence and frequency of workers' compensation claims in Australia.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has collected information on work-related injuries, illnesses and disease via the Population Survey Monitor. Information includes the number of work days lost and how much work performance is reduced due to work-related injuries. Additional information was gathered from those people who were unable to find work because of work- related injuries (National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2000). Some information is available free through the ABS website (www.abs.gov.au); further information is contained in reports that can be purchased or through the ABS on-line subscription service. A range of other databases are maintained by Australian authorities. The National Catalogue of State and Industry Based WHS Data (National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2000) lists a wide range of databases and their salient features such as the purpose of data collection, data items, sources of information, frequency and methodology of data collection, and who to contact.
Some 75 databases are listed in the catalogue including:
Australian mesothelioma register
Coal industry accident data and health surveillance data (NSW)
Safety performance for Australian paint manufacturers
Australian petroleum production and exploration association incident database
Australian mesothelioma register
Lead workers surveillance (NSW)
National tractor death register
National monitoring of occupational exposures to blood and body fluids among healthcare workers
International sources of information
As we need to look outside the workplace for the ‘bigger picture’ on hazards, we should also look outside Australia for information on hazards generally and also industry-specific information.
Some key international sources of hazard-specific information are:
US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov)
UK Health and Safety Executive (www.hse.gov.uk)
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (http://osha.europa.eu/en)
Generally, WHS information can be obtained from:
Annual and company reports
Workplace conversations at lunch or during breaks
• Accident, illness and injury reports and statistics • Environmental monitoring • Workplace hazard and risk assessments and analyses • Absentee and attrition reports • Lectures and training workshops • Meetings, surveys and audits • Policy and procedure documents • Health and safety representatives • Incident investigation reports • Audits • Manufacturer’s manuals • Safety data sheets (SDS) and registers
Informal meetings or toolbox talks
Observation or work practice and environmental conditions Observation of new and current work practices
• Professional journals, Acts and Regulations • Industry bodies
Social contacts with co- workers and others
• Lectures, workshops, and seminars demographic information on accidents and trends in the local area • Health and environment monitoring • Hazardous material reports and advice
Once we are prepared to embark on the hazard and risk management processes we can begin to apply the techniques to assist. These include the techniques for hazard identification based on our review of retrieved information, risk assessment tools and an approach to risk control based on the hierarchy of controls. Risk management is the culture, processes and structure that are directed towards the effective management of potential opportunities and adverse risk. Risk management should be done when entering the work environment, prior to starting work, following any injury or incident and after any changes to legislation, technology, workplace practices or processes. The Australian/New Zealand Standard - RISK MANAGEMENT - provides a generic framework for implementing risk management in relation to any risk. This standard is very useful and can be read in conjunction with other relevant standards that may impact on the organisation.
Basic principles of risk management
The main elements of the risk management process, as outlined in the standard, are to establish the organisational strategies for risk management.
The primary aim of risk management is to eliminate the hazard giving rise to the risk(s), thereby eliminating the risk(s). Check the workplace for hazards using itemised checklist(s) and documentation in accordance with work procedures. Where elimination is not possible, risk control seeks to minimise the risk by controlling the hazard and/or the associated work system. Risk control measures must be reviewed to ensure continued suitability and effectiveness.
Identified risks must be documented in accordance with relevant policies, procedures and legislation.
For more information about Risk Management refer to the ‘Risk Management Code of Practice’.
The risk management process image sourced from the ‘HOW TO MANAGE WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS’ code of practice.
Risk management may be applied to: Statutory compliance WHS Environment Quality Property security Business risks, such as:
Sales and marketing
Finance and accounting
Risk management processes are the systematic application of management policies, procedures and practices to the task of establishing the context, identifying, analysing, evaluating, treating, monitoring and communicating risk.
The application of the risk management processes must be in accordance with legislative and organisational requirements such as site risk management systems.
Site risk management systems may include:
Risk management policy
Site procedures and work instructions for hazard identification
Site procedures and work instructions for risk assessment, selection and implementing of risk control measures
Site incident (accident) investigation requirements
Site risk audits and investigations requirements
Site consultative arrangements for employees in work area
Site hazard report procedures
Site operating procedures and instructions
Site emergency and evacuation procedures
Site purchasing policies and procedures
Site plant and equipment maintenance and use instructions
Site hazardous substances use and storage procedures and work instructions
Site dangerous goods transport and storage procedures and work instructions
Site WHS arrangements for on site contractors, visitors and members of the public
Site First Aid provisions/medical practitioner contacts and attention instructions
Site access procedures and instructions
Risk management process
Using information and data
Information and data is used to determine the nature and scope of workplace hazards, the range of harms they may cause, and how these harms happen
The first step in an investigation is to identify sources of information about the hazard. These include sources that are external to the organisation as well internal. When investigating a specific hazard in the workplace it is good practice to check if there are any applicable national or Australian Standards.
Hazards in the workplace have the potential to cause:
Irritations and annoyances
We also need to look outside the workplace for the ‘bigger picture’ on hazards, we should also look outside Australia for information on hazards generally and also industry-specific information. Remember to consult injury databases that provide information on the causation and frequency of injuries which may help to identify hazards and assess risk.
Identifying hazards requires good quality information. You will need historical information to determine ‘foreseeability’.
Ask questions like:
• Has this happened before in your workplace, in similar workplaces, in any workplace?
• How often has it happened?
• What is the state of knowledge about the materials, processes, conditions, work organisation, personal demands and their potential to cause harm?
• Where and how do we access this information?
These are all relevant to the collection of information.
Reviewing and accessing existing sources of workplace information and data which has already been reported and documented can be useful and will assist in identifying hazards. Examples are: Consulting with workers to find out how workplace change might impact on WHS Consult with first aid attendants responsible for the workplace, as they see the results of injuries and can comment on what contributed to them
Internal accident investigation results
Monitoring devices, which measure the level or concentration of a hazard eg noise, temperature, lighting fumes and dust, radiation and so on
Previously completed risk assessments
To be effective in preventing injury and damage, you should also be looking for the development of any pre-conditions or circumstances that may lead to loss of control of the hazard. Some sources of information will be more useful for particular hazards. For example, maintenance records will be important for plant hazards, sick leave and personnel records may give indications of psychosocial hazards.
Hazard information is required when storing, handling or cleaning up spills which may include:
Exposure limits to toxic chemicals
Personal protective equipment and clothing required when handling a chemical or cleaning up a spill
Health hazards of each chemical Fire or explosive hazards of each chemical First aid instructions for: – Inhalation of chemical vapour – Skin or eye contact with a chemical
Areas and distances that must be evacuated around a major spill or fire.
Having identified the sources of both external and internal information about hazards we need to locate it, review it to evaluate its quality and applicability and then apply it
The information should help us understand how the hazardous energy may inflict harm and how that harm may be influenced by other factors. For example, we intuitively know that continuous exposure to elevated noise may damage the hearing and that repeated bending lifting and carrying may lead to musculo-skeletal pain. However, retrieving and digesting information about the ways in which the ear responds to sound and how the musculo-skeletal system may be stressed can help us assess risk and start to think about controls. We need to delve relatively deeply into the information sources if we are to be thorough in our risk assessment. For example, exposure to some chemicals can increase the risk of hearing loss and therefore we need to not only understand this and the noise exposure but also assess any chemicals of concern in our workplace. Grinders can injure if someone contacts the rotating wheel but we need to know about other ways in which people may be exposed to damaging energy such as through wheel disintegration.
We know that the smell of a solvent can make you feel a bit light-headed but need to know about long term effects on the brain or effects on the skin. Reviewing the various sources of information while thinking about the hazards we have identified can help us move towards the next step which is selecting techniques for assessing risk and then applying control measures. Remember, risk involves assessing the likelihood of injury and severity and the latter requires knowledge of the energy-damage process However, it must be stressed that whenever we feel uncertain or lack confidence in our own knowledge it may be appropriate to seek expert help.
The information review process can help us identify an appropriate expert to assist.
Research events leading up to an incident, during an incident and through the post incident management phase. Actions and events may include all actions and events that may have contributed to the occurrence or severity of the incident, including:
Design decisions Systems People Tools
Equipment Materials Fixtures Time and nature of the injury
An event is the point in time at which control is lost. (What happened?) There are usually many reasons for this loss of control (How the incident happened?) and conditions that lead to these reasons for the loss of control, (Why it happened?) develop over a period of time. This data will be beneficial for comparison to existing hazards that are identified, and deciding on how to manage them.
The HS committee and representatives are part of the consultative process where hazards identified in the workplace can be brought to the attention of management. The development of consultative mechanisms provides a forum for workers to raise issues which affect productivity and quality including the presence of health and safety standards. It is important to consult with any workers involved in the area or work processes. Those who work day to day will understand the hazards they encounter or foresee, and may have valuable information or input into the types of controls requried for safety.
Health and environment monitoring
As with audits, monitoring may be undertaken by WHS practitioners who can provide technical advice about suspected problems. Monitoring may help in deciding whether a substance or process is a hazard and, if so, its severity. In this way, monitoring is not only associated with hazard identification, but also with workplace assessment and evaluation.
Hazard or risk?
The term ‘hazard’ is often misused by using it to refer to any feature of the physical, organisational and/or behavioural environment − such as a spill on the floor, lack of training or poor work practices − which contributes to the incident or the severity of the outcome. Hazards are also sometimes referred to as ‘potential’ hazards. Hazards are sources of ‘potential harm’; therefore, they are either present or not present. The potential is in their ‘risk’, not in the hazardous nature. Such misuse of the term ‘hazard’ can lead to poor or wrong analyses of WHS problems and therefore a failure to identify effective controls. Factors such as inadequate work practices, lack of training, or fatigue, are NOT hazards but are failures in controls, or conditions, that may result in an accident or incident occurring. Where control failures are confused with hazards, there is an assumption that the particular control should be implemented rather than identifying the best controls for the hazard. Using the term ‘hazard’ in the correct context is a prerequisite for effective risk control.
So what is or can be a hazard?
Hazards are sources of potential harm in terms of human injury, ill health, damage to property, damage to the environment, or a combination of these. Hazard categories include:
1) Biological – agents that can cause infection, allergy or illnesses (viruses, diseases).
2) Chemical – manufactured or natural products – dangerous goods, cleaning products, gases, fumes, may be flammable, poisonous, corrosive etc. 3) Mechanical and/or electrical – workplace plant, tools, equipment, and machinery, power outlets, isolations and use, work processes etc. 4) Physical – physical environment, actions and movement, in the work area and conducting tasks, personal health, capabilities and limitations, etc. eg manual handling tasks – slips trips falls, noise and vibrations, working at height, lighting and vision, temperature extremes, walkways and stairwells, rubbish and housekeeping, radiation, including UV – sun radiation). 5) Psychosocial – Bullying, inappropriate or unsafe behaviour, overworked, stress and fatigue, human error, drugs and alcohol.