Dangerous plant causes many workplace deaths and serious injuries to employees each year.
Employers, self-employed persons, employees, designers, manufacturers and suppliers all have legal obligations to workplace safety under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).
Plant is a broad term. Under the OHS Act, plant includes any machinery, equipment, appliance, implement and tool. It also includes any part of that machinery, equipment, appliance, implement or tool and anything fitted, connected or related to any of those things.
The OHS Regulations also cover plant. Part 3.5 of the OHS Regulations apply to:
temporary access equipment
Unless the plant relies exclusively on manual power or is designed to be primarily supported by hand, Part 3.5 of the OHS Regulations also applies to:
plant that processes material by way of a mechanical action that does any of the following, including where the action is not the plant's main purpose:
cuts, drills, punches or grinds
presses, forms, hammers, joins or moulds
combines, mixes, sorts, packages, assembles, knits or weaves
plant that lifts or moves materials or people, other than ship, boat, aircraft or vehicle designed for use primarily as a means of transport on a public road or rail
Licensing and registration requirements
Using certain kinds of plant, such as forklifts, scaffolding, some cranes and pressure equipment and turbines, requires a licence from WorkSafe, and the design of some high-risk plant must be registered with WorkSafe. To find out more about licensing and registration requirements for plant, contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service.
WorkSafe Advisory Service
WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.
Plant is a major cause of workplace death and injury in Victoria. There are significant risks associated with using machinery and equipment and injuries from the unsafe use of plant tend to be severe.
Examples of serious injuries caused by dangerous plant include:
having limbs amputated by unguarded moving parts of machines
being crushed by mobile plant
fractures from falls while accessing, operating or maintaining plant
electrocution or burns from plant that is not adequately protected or isolated
burns or scalds due to contact with hot surfaces or exposure to flames or hot fluids
Controlling hazards and risks from plant
The following steps can help control plant-related hazards and risks in your workplace.
Under the OHS Act, employers must consult with employees when identifying or assessing hazards or risks associated with plant and when making decisions about risk controls. Your employees include independent contractors you have engaged and any employees of the independent contractors who perform work you control or should control. If health and safety representatives (HSRs) have been appointed to represent employees, consultation must involve those HSRs.
Employees can make major contributions to improving workplace health and safety. Regular, proactive consultation can help identify issues in the workplace and you, as an employer, can build a strong commitment to health and safety by including all views in the decision-making process.
When identifying hazards associated with plant in your workplace, you must consider all aspects of the plant, such as:
installation, including erection
decommissioning and dismantling
You also need to think about the types of injuries that could occur as a result of unsafe plant.
Other plant hazards may arise from noise, radiation, vapours and gases, pressure, electricity, fire, explosion, moisture and extreme temperatures.
Designers and manufacturers should try to anticipate what could go wrong in all aspects of the plant operation and life cycle, including plant or systems failure, maintenance and ergonomic issues and the potential for human error.
The more you know about possible hazards, the better. You should get as much information as you can from a range of sources, including:
advice from specialist professionals, such as engineers
discussions with designers, manufacturers, suppliers or employers with similar plant
incident and injury reports from health and safety organisations
reports and articles from safety journals, technical standards and databases
Work through the following list to control risks associated with plant at your workplace. In many instances, a combination of approaches will result in the best solution.
Eliminate the hazard
The best option is to remove the hazard completely, so you should always try to do this first.
Substitute safer plant, use engineering controls or isolate the plant from people
If you can't remove the hazard, think about changing the equipment or processes used.
Use administrative controls or personal protective equipment
If you can't change the equipment or processes, try to change the way the work is done.
It's important to review risk controls regularly to ensure they are applied correctly and to monitor the controls' effectiveness.
Review and, if necessary, revise risk controls whenever there are any changes to the workplace that could increase risks, such as changes to the way the work is done or to the equipment used.
A review is also necessary if controls are not adequate or if an HSR requests a review.
You should also review your hazard and risk controls and make sure they are appropriate before using an item of plant for the first time.