Work Health and Safety (WHS) is, rather obviously, a discipline that governs the well-being of employers in all industries. There are national work health and safety acts, as well as industry- or workplace-specific regulations, such as mining in Australia. According to Wikipedia, occupational health and safety has ramifications that go beyond the workplace, as it has positive knock-on effects for everything mining industry-related, including employees’ families, the community at large, the environment and profits.
Work health and safety also extends beyond mere physical health; plans should take into consideration emotional, psychological and social health. Work health and safety officers in Australia need to consider work-related illnesses (like heart and lung disease associated with mining), and company directors and managers up to date on the acts and legislation that govern WHS in their particular industry.
One of the most important jobs associated with health and safety in the workplace is risk identification and management, which includes analysing risks, forecasting potential harm as a result of the risk (on all levels of severity) and estimating the probability of occurrence. Work health and safety also includes devising strategies to avoid hazardous outcomes in the workplace and implementing procedures if these strategies fail.
According to Wikipedia, there are five broad risks that health and safety officers have to identify:
1) Mechanical risks: collisions, falls and equipment.
2) Physical risks: noise, light, asphyxiation, cold, heat and radiation.
3) Biological risks: bacteria, viruses and assorted pathogens.
4) Chemical risks: acids, solvents, fumes and explosive chemicals.
5) Psychosocial issues: stress, emotional and verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
There is a sixth, often overlooked consideration, namely the ergonomic design of furniture and equipment, the lack of which could lead to musculoskeletal disorders.
Work Health and Safety in the Australian Mining Industry
According to Safe Work Australia, the Australian mining industry is not a shining example of occupational health and safety. Between 2009 and 2010 there were 2557 claims for serious worker’s compensation; the most common reasons cited were muscular stress, falls, trips and slips and being hit by moving objects. Safe Work Australia breaks down the occupational health and safety statistics by region and found that NSW has the highest number of serious claims, Victoria had the lowest number of claims and the Northern Territory had the most significant decrease in claims. Interestingly, while NSW has the highest number of claims, it also experienced the second biggest decrease.
According to miningcareers.com, becoming a health and safety officer in the mining industry can be rather lucrative with salaries between AU$70 000 and AU$110 000. Becoming a health and safety manager is even more lucrative, with salaries between AU$85 000 and AU$140 000.
Miningcareers.com adds that one of the best ways to get into OHS is to complete TAFE courses in workplace health and safety or obtain an occupational health and safety degree.
Work Health and Safety TAFE Courses
TAFE Queensland offers Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety, although it notes that anyone who wants to practice as a workplace health and safety officer will need to complete a statutory course that complies with the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.
TAFE NSW offers a Diploma of Work Health and Safety for people who want to advance from WHS officers to workplace health and safety managers; it is assumed that students are already familiar with the relevant health and safety acts in NSW.
Swinburne University of Technology has a Centre for Work Health and Safety Training that offers Certificate III in OHS, Diploma and Advanced Diploma of WHS and several short courses, such as Contribute to the Implementation of Emergency Procedures, Monitor a Safe Workplace and Handle Dangerous Goods/Hazardous Substances.
You can find TAFE Work Health and Safety courses on TafeCourses.com.au’s website. You can search for courses by city or region; soon you’ll be well on your way to ensuring health and safety at mines anywhere in Australia.