Safe Systems of Work

WorkSafe Media Release

A tragic workplace fatality in the Bay of Plenty serves as a reminder for businesses that effective standard operating systems in workplaces are key to making sure employees stay healthy and safe at work.

These systems must be documented, implemented, communicated, and monitored to ensure they are effective, says WorkSafe New Zealand.

The Sawmill had an inadequate communication system when workers were loading/unloading the kilns, relying on employees to use their mobile phones and hand signals. Similarly, while the business was in the process of developing a traffic management system, there was no system in place at the time of the incident to keep vehicles and pedestrians separate.

There was also no internal monitoring to ensure that employees were aware of the businesses safe operating procedures. The business had no documented exclusion zones and no monitoring system in place to signal that the kiln was being loaded or unloaded.

Robust, practiced, documented, and reviewed systems of communication between workers performing safety critical tasks is essential. Workers should have a hand in the development and review process.
This begins with a risk assessment involving workers and managers. It is important to have the people with task/job specific technical knowledge present and someone with experience in applying the hierarchy of safety controls is also essential.  

From a risk assessment, a documented safe or standard operating procedure, (SOP) document should be developed and conversations between managers and directors around reasonable and practicable resourcing should occur. 

The document should be rolled out to applicable staff, this is where they will recognise their involvement. Worker involvement supports and increases the level of engagement. A period for review should be included in the document, someone must be tasked with this responsibility.

Keeping vehicles and pedestrians separate. 
An example of good control for vehicle/pedestrian separation are engineering controls like steel barriers to create safe zones for workers to work behind whilst plant is moving and operating. These combined with administrative controls like restricting the work area can make workplaces where vehicles and people coexist much safer. 

Exclusion zones and monitoring systems. 
The method to developing and documenting exclusion zones and monitoring systems can be found above. Examples in the workplace include… barrier protected safe zones, reversing alarms, flashing lights, reversing camera‚Äôs, use of spotters or a buddy system and visible and straight forward signage or instructions reiterating the main messages from an SOP.

ThinkSafe are here to answer questions you might have about the implementation of safe systems of work in your workplace.


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