The Australian Work Healthand Safety Strategy has called on the
manufacturing sector to reduce its rates of fatalities and serious claims.
This is an industry with the
eighth-highest fatality rate and second-highest serious claim frequency rate in
Australia – more than nine claims per million hours worked in 2019-20.
cause of fatalities and injuries are:
- Being hit by
- Muscular stress
while lifting, carrying, or placing objects.
Manufacturing businesses can always
improve their approaches to minimising risks, and we offer these tips as
refreshers and updates.
Dealing with hazardous chemicals
As an employer, you should make sure the
use, handling, storage, and transportation of hazardous chemicals happens
safely and without risking health. Australian workplaces use up to 40,000
different chemicals, says the OHS Reps union website.
Here’s Safe Work Australia’s
national guide to classifying hazardous chemicals.
Factor in these approaches to deal with
hazardous substances in your workplace:
- Create, review
and update your action plan for health and safety reps
- Know the legal
standards, particularly relating to maximum exposure levels such as for
- Be aware of the
health impacts of exposure to hazardous chemicals, including acute and
- Understand the
effects of exposure to more than one chemical or with other hazards such
as heat or noise
- Understand how
particular chemicals can affect the body through poisoning, corroding,
irritating or sensitising
severe toxic effects can be mutagenic, carcinogenic, or teratogenic
- Learn how
chemical exposure works through its form, physical properties, how it
enters the body and the body’s reaction after exposure
hazardous chemicals or airborne particles. These can be dust (inhaled),
liquids (absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream), vapours
(inhaled), mists (which irritate eyes/skin), and gases (inhaled, or could
be flammable or explosive).
Manually handling is when a worker uses
force to lift, push, pull, carry or restrain an object. Sprains and strains are
the most common injuries overall. You can minimise these risks:
- Ensure they
abide by the legal weight limits for lifting
- Ask them to use
back braces and lifting belts
- Rotate workers
through tasks to reduce repetitive strain injuries
- Investigate how
to make workstations and seating safer
- Roll out
appropriate and safer work systems, information, training, supervision and
where needed, personal protective equipment
- Encourage those
with sedentary jobs to take five-minute activity breaks at their
workstations or elsewhere every 40 to 50 minutes.
Check out Safe Work Australia’s Principles of Good Work Design booklet for more tips.
Minimising noise and hearing damage
Check your state or territories’
workplace health and safety regulations for noise exposure limits – the key
figures to look out for are 85 to 140 decibels. The higher the decibels, the
shorter time your staff should be exposed to it. This site allows you to turn the dial for insights on how increasing
decibels impacts an acceptable exposure period.
Reduce the noise levels in your workplace
in this sequence:
controls to move the equipment to a more isolated spot or soundproofing
- Rotate staff
between quieter areas
- Run the equipment
when fewer people are about
- Ensure your
staff and visitors have quality and fitted personal hearing protection.
As well, build in regular hearing tests
of staff, and regularly monitor noise levels and work practices to improve your
management of this danger.
Managing heat issues
While there are no regulations for
workplace standards for maximum temperatures, the risks of heat stress, and the
greater likelihood of accidents make it a hazard. Audit your workplace to
monitor and evaluate heat stress areas and work with staff to make conditions
Tips to manage heat issues in your
- Install fans or
air conditioning or ensure good natural ventilation
- Insulate or
shield heat sources as well as roofs and walls
- Reduce window
area and heat transfer from them with reflective film or blinds
- Duct hot
exhausts to outside
- Mechanise some
of the tasks, where possible
- Ensure your work
vehicles are air-conditioned.
Reducing the risks of vibration
Forklift and heavy machine operators
exposed to heavy vibrations have an increased risk of indigestion. As
well, research shows
women in such full-time work are prone to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes
and gestational hypertension. Therefore, a good practice is to identify
pregnant women and move them to other jobs. It makes sense all round to
minimise vibration for all staff:
- Invest in
non-vibrating tools and products to eliminate the risk
- Substitute with
- Use cushioning,
spring grips or rubber shock absorbers, and gloves to muffle kick-back
ergonomically designed seats that absorb vibration
engineering controls, including dampeners, insulated mountings, or sinking
the machine into a pit
maintain tools, vehicles and machinery
- Rotate job tasks
and enforce regular rest breaks
- Train staff to
raise awareness of the issues and how they can prevent vibration-induced
Protecting your staff
Minimising workplace risks is paramount. The first place to start is a WHS Audit. If you need help in this area, our experts in our wholly owned subsidiary WHS Total Solutions can help.
There’s more you can do once you’ve
minimised the above risks -- choose the best-fit workers’ compensation
insurance policy for your unique business. Such a policy will help pay for
injured employees’ immediate and ongoing medical costs and covers part of their
wages while they’re unable to work for you. Lower your costs with a continuous
improvement approach to risk management.
Employer’s liability insurance is an
extra layer of protection should a staff member sue your business over an
injury. This policy can help cover lawyers’ fees, court costs, and settlements
whether you’re at fault. We can customise a policy package to suit your
This content is created and provided by
Finnigan Investments (Australia) Pty Ltd trading as OneAffiniti on
behalf of Austral Risk Services, and is for commercial purposes. Any financial
product advice in this content is provided by Austral Risk Services AFSL No.
244369. This material is general in nature and has been prepared without taking
into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Accordingly, before
acting on it, you should consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.