As an employer, you have an obligation to keep your employees safe.
This isn’t just a moral obligation – it’s also a legal one!
Section 20 of the Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) stipulates that an employer must remove risks and hazards to the safety and health of their employees.
And in cases where it isn’t reasonably practicable to remove the hazard entirely, the employer must take reasonable precautions to minimise the likelihood of the hazard resulting in an injury or health issue.
Like many things legal however, the wording is, shall we say, vague. “Reasonable precautions” – what does that mean exactly? And what counts as “reasonable?”
Today, Signsmart’s workplace safety experts explain what reasonable steps you can take to secure your workplace, and the role safety signage plays in everything!
The OHS Act’s definition of reasonable precautions
What better place to start than with the wording of the OHS Act itself?
While no workplace is 100% risk-free, the OHS Act specifically singles out specific areas of a workplace that are especially dangerous:
- Machines, tools and plant systems need to be safe and maintained
- The handling, storage and transport of chemicals/substances needs to be carried out in a safe manner
- The workplace needs to pose no threat to an individual’s health
- Bathrooms, locker areas, dining areas and first aid need to meet code
When possible, these areas need to be free of risks – so long as it is reasonably practical, of course.
What does ‘reasonably practicable’ have to do with ‘reasonable precautions?’
Reasonable precautions are the measures you need to take in order to ensure that you are following the OHS Act so long as it is reasonably practicable.
There’s a lot of overlap between “reasonably practicable” and “reasonable precautions” – the similar names don’t help either!
- Reasonably practicable – legal-speak for measures that are realistic, and can be feasibly implemented
- Reasonable precautions – the actual safety signs, equipment, measures and features themselves
“Okay, so what does my business need?”
That’s a hard question to answer, simply because each workplace has its own unique hazards and risks.
For example, a reasonable precaution for a welder may include eye protection, while an unreasonable one might be getting a machine that can automate welding – while possible, the technology is much too expensive for most workshops!
Not to mention, some hazards simply aren’t worth it. For example, you don’t need a workplace safety sign for the kettle in the kitchenette, as it’s assumed any reasonable person will check it first.
Some things you might want to take into consideration when determining if it is reasonably practicable to take further precautions include:
- How likely it is that the risk will result in injury or health complications
- How bad the injury or health issues will be if the risk does occur
- The different ways in which you can minimise or remove the risk
- The effects of the removal or minimisation of the risk (it may cause more risks)
- Whether the cost of removal or minimisation of the risk grossly outweigh the risk itself
Examples of reasonable precautions: workplace safety signs, their meanings and why they’re essential
While each workplace is unique, there are a couple of perfectly reasonable precautions that are relevant in just about any workplace.
Case in point: workplace safety signs!
It doesn’t matter whether it’s manufacturing, transport or even if it’s a desk job – safety signs are an essential part of any workplace safety plan.
Here are some examples…
“Out of order” signs are a must-have
The first and most important safety sign to acquire when working with machinery, is an out of order or do not use sign.
You can’t rely on word of mouth to inform everybody that a machine is no longer safe to use – what if you have a visitor, or someone is out when the announcement is made?
If an employee is tired, under the pump or hasn’t been at work lately, they may forget or they may not know.
Ensure that your machinery’s condition is obvious to all your employees by using a hazard sign.
Sure, a sticky note can do in a pinch – however, it can also slip easily, not to mention it’s easy to miss. Best go with a proper sign to ensure that your message can’t be ignored!
Hazard signs help make machines safer for operators
You also need to take in consideration what risk of injury there is when using an operational machine.
You may want to consider a guard reminder sign for your machines – niche pieces of equipment and machinery might require creating a custom sign that reminds users of the potential dangers and the correct operating procedure.
Signs (mandatory signs in particular) also outline correct operating procedure and safety equipment, greatly minimising the risk of an employee using an operational machine incorrectly.
How safety signs help with safe handling procedures
We touched on this above, when we mentioned how signs can outline how to properly use equipment.
However, that isn’t the only way signs keep your staff safe!
Many businesses in transport, freight and manufacturing find themselves working with hazardous materials. It’s incredibly important for your staff understand how to correctly store and transport hazardous substances, as well as how to respond to a spill.
Signsmart provides custom signs reminding and educating people about the safe transport of hazardous materials.
EIP stands for Emergency Information Panel – like the name suggests, these contain all of the correct information to follow should an accident occur. This means that in the worst case scenario, your team will have the information readily available to act efficiently, safely and correctly.
You can customise our EIP signs to refer to the specific material, size, and of course, the correct procedure and response.
Our team can also create signs with important reminders about the safe storage of hazardous materials.
Confused about workplace safety signs and their meanings?
We chose the name “Signsmart” for a reason.
No, it isn’t because of our ability to print and quickly dispatch custom signs with unique instructions and warnings (though that’s part of it).
Rather, it’s our ability to explain workplace safety signs,their meanings and your obligations as an employer under the Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).
Believe it or not, there’s a whole range of requirements of safety signs, all enforced by law:
And that’s on top of whatever your industry may require normally!
Making sense of all this can be a nightmare – luckily, we’re here to help!
Our signage experts know safety signs inside out. We’re up-to-speed with all the requirements of workplace safety signs, as well as any requirements your industry may have.
You can view our Signsmart catalogue to find out more about which signs are mandatory and other signs that could improve safety and remove risks in your workplace.