WSA - Sample: Question and Answers - 4
 

Sample Questions and Answers

How long should OHS Records be kept

Subscriber:

1. How long do OH&S records need to be kept? I know that MSDS must be less than 5 years old but unsure how long to keep agendas, minutes, inspection reports, correspondence

2. A teacher in design and technology has had no formal training on how to use scroll saws, drills and other small power tools but was taught by her father and has been using them in the classroom for 12 years or so. Does she require formal training in order to satisfy OH&S legislation?

3. In the Music department's small studios the evacuation and alert bells are too loud and the teachers are complaining. They want us to either turn the volume down (which is being investigated but we are not hopeful), isolate the small rooms from the rest of the building (not possible with our system) or turn the bells off all together. If you could give some advice on this situation we can go to the teachers and - probably - say to them that they have to wear the noise.

Answer:

1. Keeping OHS Consultation records

There are no specific requirements for keeping records of the Consultation processes other than under Clause 27 of the NSW OHS Regulation 2001, which requires that the arrangements for Consultation in the particular workplace are recorded. This appears to be a requirement for a "permanent" record and the usual period of 7 years should be appropriate. Keep in mind that if ever prosecuted by WorkCover, you may want to refer to OHS Consultation records as part of your evidence, so this might be incentive to retain.

Aspects such as keeping records of meetings, agendas, minutes, inspection records and correspondence should be the subject of the Consultation Statement which, in turn, needs to be decided by the members of the OHS Consultative Committee. Refer to the OHS Consultation Code of Practice, Schedule 1, pages 65 and 66.

Whilst there is no specific requirement, it is recommended that all documents that relate to the Consultation process have provision for noting that employees were consulted about the matter recorded on the document. This could be as simple as -

Employees consulted? Yes No

2. Training standards for use of small power tools

From an OHS perspective, an issue is whether the person is competent to safely instruct on the use of these tools. As the employer, you need to ask whether you have taken all practical and available steps as necessary to ensure safety. Consider a risk assessment of this work and consulting with the employee and others such as other teachers with experience or a supervisor about it. What OHS training in this area have teachers formally trained in design and technology received and what is the training in this area that such teachers currently receive when they go through their training (as distinct to say 5 years ago)? Note that if the answer to the last question posed is "none" or "very little", this is not an answer to the issue of determining practical and available steps as necessary to ensure safety.

On the issue of competency, clause 3 of the OHS Regulation 2001 says -

"competent person for any task means a person who has acquired through training, qualification or experience, or a combination of them, the knowledge and skills to carry out that task".

Note that the definition does not include any provision for how safely, reliably or to what standard the task is carried out although these aspects could be implied. It is therefore recommended that reference be made to the relevant National Competency Standards to determine what the performance criteria are.

Other issues to consider are what level of competency the person has reliably demonstrated over the 12 years (has it been measured and can you measure it), what supervision is provided and what the skills and competency of the supervisor are. If the person is teaching students to use the equipment it is important that such instruction and training is carried out correctly and safely. The manufacture's instructions for the equipment should be followed.

There also may be provisions in the relevant Award or Agreement about demonstration of competency.

3. Noise levels from evacuation bells

This appears to be a complex issue - eg, how often do the bells ring? Are the "small rooms" soundproofed? Is this a new system? If so, what consultation was undertaken prior to installation of the system?

Is there an industrial relations issue embedded in the situation?

Particularly if this is a new system, the manufacturer/ installer should be involved in addressing the problems and you could ask whether the noise level is within any Australian Standard on the issue. You might consider contacting Standards Australia to see if there is a standard on noise and if so, you might want to have your noise level measured. If this is not successful, it would be necessary to do some research to provide an answer. We caution against turning off or down the bells if this means they will not serve their intended purpose such that people cannot hear them if and when really needed.

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