The Work Health & Safety (WHS) legislation has changed the way organisations are required to manage safety issues. With the commencement of the legislation in WA on 31 March 2022, as well as the introduction of criminal manslaughter provisions in some states, there appears to be an increased energy around safety due diligence.
The legislation requires SFAIRP (so far as is reasonably practicable).
A duty imposed on a person to ensure health and safety requires the person:
(a) to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable; and
(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
This means that the historical concepts of ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable), risk tolerability and risk acceptance do not apply.
From the handbook for the Risk Management Standard (ISO 31000):
Importantly, contemporary WHS legislation does not prescribe an ‘acceptable’ or ‘tolerable’ level of risk—the emphasis is on the effectiveness of controls, not estimated risk levels. It may be useful to estimate a risk level for purposes such as communicating which risks are the most significant or prioritising risks within a risk treatment plan. In any case, care should be taken to avoid targeting risk levels that may prevent further risk minimisation efforts that are reasonably practicable to implement.
(SA/SNZ HB 205:2017 page 14)
In cultural terms, James Reasons outlines three types of risk culture: pathological, bureaucratic and generative.
In this framework, Codes of Practice and Standards are the bureaucratic starting point. The objective is to do better than that, when reasonably practicable to do so. The aim is the highest reasonable level of protection.
The Act ensures a ‘transparent bias’ in favour of safety. As the model act says (and all jurisdictions including NZ have adopted):
… regard must be had to the principle that workers and other persons should be given the highest level of protection against harm to their health, safety and welfare from hazards and risks arising from work as is reasonably practicable.
This is a change in mindset for many organisations, but one which easily aligns with human nature.
On a personal level, we (at R2A) are always trying to do the best we can especially for others. This is one of the reasons I continue to work on Apto PPE, a line of fit-for-purpose female hi vis workwear including a maternity range.
I know that females only represent a small proportion of the engineering and construction section (around 10%), but the question shouldn’t be “is the current options of PPE for women bad enough that we need to do something about it?”
The question should be: Can we do better than scaled down men’s PPE? And Apto PPE is happy to provide an option for organisations that want to do better.