Though manufacturing only represents 8% of the total Australian workforce, it is second only to healthcare, and slightly ahead of construction, in the number of serious workplace-related injury claims each year.
Of the serious injury claims resulting in compensation during 2013-2014, approximately 11,000 were male, and 1,000 were female employees.
Prior to 2012, the workplace health and safety laws that govern the manufacturing industry were known to most of us as occupational health and safety or OH&S.
One of the problems with the structure of occupational health and safety regulations was that they were not uniform from state to state.
In 2012, in an effort to provide a more consistent form of regulation, state and territory governments began to develop model regulations which are today known as WHS (Work, Health and Safety) Act and Regulations.
As a result of these regulations, it has become the responsibility of the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) authorities in each state or territory to apply these acts and regulations to their respective industries.
Under these regulations, it remains the responsibility of employers to ensure that their plant production staff and premises are implementing the regulations that apply to their state or territory.
“The exact obligations you have will depend upon what role you play in the supply chain. However, it is generally accepted that the most practical way to meet these obligations is to conduct a plant risk assessment specific to your industry sector.”, says Dave Robson from Plant Assessor in Newcastle.
Similar issues are being addressed in manufacturing by the recent ISO9001 certification standards. Not only are these regulations and certifications a means of improving safety, they also build confidence within the consumer market.
“By implementing quality management systems, manufacturing firms can communicate value to their markets, especially when foreign competitiveness is steadily increasing”, writes QMS Certification Services.
In addressing the issue of employer responsibility in workplace safety, state and federal governments have put increasing emphasis on training and development.
This led to important changes being made to training packages overseen by Manufacturing Skills Australia, Included in those changes were the new competency components added to the MSM10116 – Certificate I in Process Manufacturing in May this year.
Those additional components now include additional workplace safety training in process manufacturing, surface preparation and coating and production management.
As part of increasing awareness and improving training in plant safety for the manufacturing industry, a review of the structure and membership of the Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is now underway.
The purpose of the review is to gain input from employers, employees and their representatives about the necessary skills that the manufacturing workforce will need to have.
Industry Reference Committees are comprised of people within the manufacturing industry who have skills, knowledge and experience in their particular sector.
These committees provide a consultative function across their industry in order to inform peak bodies of the challenges and opportunities that employees in manufacturing face.
They help to ensure the occupational skills standards set out in training packages meet employers needs both now and into the future and assist in developing the training and competencies that form a nationally recognised qualification.
The current review will help ensure that these committees have the expertise and opportunity to further develop the training package is necessary for the manufacturing industry.
About the Author
David Trounce is a Business and Marketing Consultant for small business in Australia. David is a certified Workplace Trainer and Assessor and former Trainer with TAFE NSW. He has been published in the Huffington Post, Industry Update and Power Retail.