How OHS can help protect workers under multiple PCBUs

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Tuesday, 26 May, 2020 - 18:45
Industry news
National News

When it comes to contractor management with multiple PCBUs, one of the most common problems is confusion about how to manage this responsibility between the PCBUs, according to an expert in the field.

“There are areas where we find higher risks of exposure for labour-hire workers, but these are in areas that you may not immediately expect,” said Dianne Gibert, managing director of Certex International.

“It is interesting that the industry sectors which are inherently high risk, such as manufacturing, construction, and mining, often have very well-developed management systems and controls, and the residual risk is really quite low for the workers.”

Gibert said the higher risks tend to be in businesses that are new start-ups which just haven’t built all the controls yet, and very often in companies that have overseas parents which don’t understand the high priority placed on worker safety here in Australia.

Gibert, who was speaking ahead of the AIHS National Health and Safety Conference – ONLINE, which will be held from 22–24 June 2020, also said labour-hire agencies don’t have any control or influence of the worksite of the host client.

“How can they assess the safety risk when they aren’t on the work site themselves?

“The labour-hire agency isn’t an expert in the work activities, or on the machinery and equipment that is used on the worksite,” she said.

“Similarly, the host client really doesn’t want a horde of recruitment consultants wandering about their work site with clipboards, probably getting in the way, and each one asking the same questions.”

Gibert observed that the host client sometimes doesn’t understand that they retain responsibility for the worker, even though they would prefer that the labour-hire agency has this responsibility.

Like most things, though, she said much of the answer comes down to communication.

The iSafe Program (which was initially founded by APSCo Australia and is now provided through Certex International) was developed to support businesses with a shared responsibility for the health and safety of workers across Australia and New Zealand.

“In essence, we send qualified and experienced safety assessors onto a host client site to conduct a risk assessment on behalf of the labour-hire agency,” said Gibert.

One report is prepared, and this report can be shared with the host client and with other members of the program, and this report can then be used as a point of discussion between the PCBUs.

“Perhaps there are some improvements that the host client should undertake, or discussions about changes to the work site or work activities, or in dire situations, the workers removed from the site,” she said.

This forms a key part of the requirement to consult, cooperate and coordinate activities between the duty holders.

“Most OHS professionals will be fully aware of the OHS responsibilities for all workers onsite,” said Gibert.

“Our advice is to keep in mind the importance of communication and co-operating with the labour-hire agency.

“Secondly, be aware that the chain of supply may not end with you, the host client.”

Gibert said some host clients on-forward their workers to other work sites, in just the same way that labour-hire agencies do with their workers.

“When this happens, you retain responsibility and must consult with these second party host clients,” said Gibert.

“So think about how you are managing these workers at other sites, and how you are meeting your shared responsibilities with the other PCBUs.”

Gibert will be speaking at the AIHS National Health and Safety Conference – ONLINE, which will be held from 22–24 June 2020. For more information call (03) 8336 1995, email or visit