Workplace Safety LO23819

From: Alan Cotterell (
Date: 01/09/00

Replying to LO23738 --


In recent times there has been widespread concern in the community over
the number of deaths in industrial incidents. It is believed by many,
that most of these accidents are preventable. As a result new laws are
being prepared which require risk assessments in many situations. These
laws offer a new systematic approach to safety management.

What is a risk assessment? An example of a risk assessment occurs when a
worker erects scaffolding. If he looks at an untightened clamp, and
considers that it could cause an accident, the likelihood of the accident
occurring, and the potential consequences ... that is a risk assessment.

(Risk assessments were often performed, by the bureaucrats who developed
our current laws. These laws were usually passed after a serious accident
had occurred ^ they were essentially reactive. They were also specific
for certain hazards such as asbestos and lead, however this type of law
cannot cope with the multitude of dangerous situations encountered in the

What happens when a risk assessment finds a problem? We have to control
the risk. This means we can eliminate the source of the problem, or
substitute a less dangerous alternative. We can engineer out the problem.

Another way of handling the problem is by administrative risk control.
This entails use of documented codes of practice and management systems.

What is a code of practice? A code of practice is a recipe. For example,
it may be a generalised code, which specifies the order in which a
building is put up, and requires risk assessments in certain situations. A
code of practice is usually part of a management system.

The final level of control is use of personal protective equipment such as
safety glasses, harnesses, ear muffs etc.

The proposed Victorian legislation for Major Hazard Facilities (such as
the Longford Gas Plant), requires submission to the Victorian Workcover
Authority of a safety case, before a licence to operate will be granted.
The safety case will have to specify the nature of the company's Safety
Management System. There is a requirement in the legislation, for workers
to report circumstances with the potential for accidents, to their
employers. In New South Wales the new health and safety legislation will
require widespread use of risk assessments. This type of legislation will
be taken up by the other states.

The use of risk assessments and safety management systems will probably
cause a change of mindset, both in the workplace and in the community. We
will all become more proactive ... this means planning what we do, and
looking at what could happen in various circumstances which might arise.

Let us hope that this new systematic approach greatly reduces the number
of industrial deaths in Australia.

Alan Cotterell
Acotrel Risk Management Pty Ltd
21st January 2000


"Alan Cotterell" <>

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