Queensland Government
Queensland Health
Health Professionals > Endoscope Reprocessing

3.1 Workplace Health & Safety

OBJECTIVES

This module explores the occupational hazards faced by those involved in reprocessing flexible endoscopes and accessories. It will also provide links to relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory government sites involved in this workplace health and safety issue. This will not be an extensive or comprehensive review of workplace health and safety issues and if you have any questions relating to your own workplace the best place to start when looking for answers is your local workplace health and safety personnel.

After completion of this module you will be able to: 

LEGISLATION

In each jurisdiction (Commonwealth, State or Territory) there is a principal occupational health and safety Act that gives broad duties to the workplace parties. Commonly included in each Act are requirements for:

The Act may also include requirements for:

The key principle in each Act is the 'duty of care'. This imposes obligations on employers to ensure the workplace health and safety of employees at work. This obligation extends to others such as contractors, patients and visitors. There is also an obligation on employees to ensure their own workplace health and safety and that of others, and to co-operate with employers on workplace health and safety matters.

Below are links to the various State, Territory and Commonwealth government workplace health and safety sites (some sites may require an internet password dependent on your level of access).

Division of Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland
www.whs.qld.gov.au

WorkCover New South Wales
www.workcover.nsw.gov.au

Australian Capital Territory WorkCover
www.workcover.act.gov.au

Victorian Workcover Authority
www.workcover.vic.gov.au

Workplace Standards Tasmania
www.wst.tas.gov.au

WorkCover Corporation, South Australia
www.workcover.com (May require internet access password)

WorkSafe Western Australia
www.safetyline.wa.gov.au

Work Health Authority, Northern Territory
www.nt.gov.au/wha

Comcare Australia
www.comcare.gov.au

Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC )
www.ascc.gov.au/

Occupational Health and Safety Service, New Zealand
www.osh.dol.govt.nz/

As well as the sites listed above it is possible to link to copies of State/Territory legislation via the Australasian Legal Information Institute at www.austlii.edu.au.

As mentioned previously workplace health and safety (WH&S) legislation establishes a duty of care for all participants in the workplace. A duty of care is an obligation to ensure the health and safety of persons in the workplace. It is about making those who create hazards and risks accept responsibility for them.

 Find your State or Territory's workplace health and safety legislation and see if you can identify the duties or obligations of employers and employees.

The legislation provides for the election of a Workplace Health and Safety Representative and in some States the appointment of a Workplace Health and Safety Officer.

 Do you know who these people are in your workplace?
Contact them and ask them to explain their role. They may be able to help you if you had difficulty identifying the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees.

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RISK MANAGEMENT

This is the process that underpins health and safety management. It involves systematically identifying hazards, assessing and controlling risks, and monitoring and reviewing activities to make sure that risks are effectively managed.

Effective consultation, training and information management are essential parts of the risk management process and it can be applied to all workplaces.

The main steps of the risk management process are set out in the table below.

Steps in the risk management process

Step 1.
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. This can include hazards such as chemicals, infectious diseases, plant, manual tasks and noise. This step involves identifying all the possible situations or events which could harm people in the workplace. Activities, which may help in the hazard identification process, include workplace inspections, checklists, records of past accidents or near misses, information from manufacturers, employee consultation and Australian Standards.

Step 2.
Risk is the likelihood that harm might result because of the hazard. In assessing risk, you should consider the likelihood of an incident occurring at the workplace and the consequences of an incident occurring. The more likely it is that an incident will occur and /or the more serious the consequences, the more urgent it is that the risk be controlled. The outcome of this step is a prioritised list of risks requiring further action.

Step 3.
Control measures should be based on the hierarchy of control. This considers control measures in descending order of priority. Higher order controls include elimination, substitution, isolation and engineering controls. Lower order controls include administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE should not be relied upon as the primary means of risk control and should be used when risk can not be managed by other means and in conjunction with other control measures.

Whichever control measure is chosen it should adequately control exposure to the risk, not create another hazard, and allow employees to do their work without undue discomfort or distress.

Step 4.
Ensure that the control measure can operate effectively by developing appropriate work procedures. Communicate with, and supervise employees to ensure the control measures are used correctly. Maintain the control measures to ensure ongoing effectiveness.

Step 5.
The last step involves checking that the control measures have been implemented. Ensuring that they have eliminated or reduced the risks and that they haven't created any new hazards. More details about monitoring can be found in the Quality Assurance module.

 For more information about risk management go to the ASCC website, your state or territory's workplace health and safety website or talk with your facility's workplace health and safety personnel.

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Last Updated: 29 August 2011
Last Reviewed: 29 August 2011