TLIU2012 – Comply with environmental regulations Copy
Element 2: Comply with environmental regulations
2.1 – Workplace environmental hazards are identified and reported to appropriate personnel
What are environmental hazards?
Environmental hazards are those hazards found in an area that have the potential to threaten and affect people’s health.
In a broad sense, environmental hazards can be divided into four categories:
Physical – occur naturally in the environment e.g. natural disasters
Chemical – can be natural or human-made e.g. disinfectants
Biological – come from ecological interactions between organisms e.g. viruses
Cultural – are those hazards that result from social elements like location, behavioural choices, occupation and socioeconomic status.
There are many different types of hazards that workers should be aware of so that they can protect themselves, other people and the environment.
Types of hazards may involve:
Physical environment, for example:
- Electrical items
- Hot and cold environments
- Noise levels
- Working space of any workers
Plant, for example:
Working practices, for example:
- Length of time spent at certain tasks and allocation of breaks
- Opening and closing procedures
- Rostering of staff and shift allocation
- Security procedures
- Standard operating procedures for work‑related tasks.
WHS and duty of care
Duty of care is written legally into the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 – it is a moral duty to anticipate possible hazards and causes of injury and do everything reasonably practicable to prevent/remove/minimise these causes.
This means that duty of care cannot be delegated – all adults in the workplace are responsible for health and safety.
Courts will determine breaches of duty of care based on the following criteria:
What is typically expected of another person in the same situation
The person’s roles and responsibilities within their organisation
The experience/level of training for the individual
The practicalities of the situation
What is deemed acceptable practice within the community
Generally acceptable standards in the situation
Relevant laws e.g. the Workplace Health and Safety Act 195.
You should regularly check the safety and efficiency of any equipment and materials that you use.
Checking safety of equipment will involve:
- Looking to see if everything is in tact
- Are there any worn areas
- Is anything missing?
- Test it prior to use to make sure it works efficiently.
WHS guidelines include the general reporting guidelines and responsibilities involved with checking equipment.
A PCBU (person conducting business or undertaking e.g. medical practice or organisation) has a legal obligation to provide a safe environment in which to work. A health worker has a duty to carry out work safely, check equipment and materials and report if they are unsafe to use. Section 273 of the WHS Act states that the PCBU should pay for anything that is needed to provide a safe workplace (this applies to anywhere that work is performed e.g. in clients’ homes).
Designers and manufacturers of equipment have a duty to ensure that their products meet safety standards and give clear instructions for the use of their products/equipment. Workers then have a duty to use that equipment as intended. This means that you should not modify products or equipment in any way, even if you think it would work better with a modified design. If this is the case you should seek professional help.
Equipment, appliances, machinery and tools shall be inspected on a monthly basis by supervisors/managers. Complex machinery requires inspection every three months by a qualified engineer. If not, they may have the potential to lead to an environmental hazard e.g. leaking oil.
You should plan for and ensure systematic hazard identification. This means you should conduct regular checks for hazards. Using templates will help to ensure this, as will having in place policies and procedures about planning for hazard identification.
Systematic hazard identification at times designated by legislation may occur when changes to the workplace are implemented, including:
- Before the premises are used for the first time
- Before and during the installation or alteration of any plant
- Before changes to work practices are introduced
- When new information relating to health and safety risk becomes available.
Dangerous goods relates to substances that have the potential to harm people, property and the environment.
They may include:
- Oxidising (feeds fires so they burn more fiercely)
- Spontaneously combustible (bursts into flames when lit)
- Toxic (poisonous)
- Water reactive (produce flammable or toxic gases if mixed in water)
Dangerous goods can include petroleum, chemicals and fertiliser. The current documents that form the national consistent regulatory approach to dangerous goods includes the National Standards and State/Territory codes of practice including their guidance material for hazardous substances ad dangerous goods.
The Australian Dangerous Goods Code
‘The Australian Dangerous Goods Code lists provisions applicable to the transport of dangerous goods including:
Packaging and performance testing
Use of bulk containers, IBCS, freight containers and unit loads
Marking and placarding
Segregation and stowage
Transfer of bulk dangerous goods
Procedures during transport emergencies
The dangerous goods list with UN numbers’.
People transporting dangerous goods will need proper training and licences.
It is important to report potential hazards or hazards immediately to:
- See potential issues early on
- Gain an understanding of why incidents may happen
- Look into the prevention of incidents
- Evaluate the efficiency of the procedures that are in place.
It is also important to be able to identify who the WHS duty holders are within your organisation. Staff should know who to contact about their queries and concerns. You will also need to allocate roles and responsibilities of identifying hazards, conducting risk assessments and controlling risks. You may use internal or external staff for this.
Nominated persons may include:
- Health and safety officers
- Health and safety representatives
- Managers and supervisors
- Other persons authorised or nominated by the organisation
- PCBUs or their officers
- Team leaders
- Union officers
- WHS inspectors
- WHS permit entry holders.
Once your concerns have been reported, the designated person is then responsible for acting on this and making sure the workplace is a safe environment. Your employer has a legal responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe and nobody is at risk.
Someone who carries out work for a PCBU is known as a worker. Whilst they are at work, workers are responsible for taking reasonable care in regards to the own safety. They must also consider the safety of other people that may be affected by their actions. In order to comply with the WHS Act, workers must also cooperate with any actions taken by their PCBU.
Hierarchy of controls
Hierarchy of controls are a prioritised list of controls for risks in the workplace. The below list of hierarchy controls is presented in order of effectiveness for controlling risk. Elimination is the most successful solution to controlling a risk, and PPE is the option that is used last. Using a combination of risk controls may also be necessary and can increase safety when controlling situations of risk.
- Elimination – reorganise systems to remove the risk from the process
- Substitution – change/swap to a lower risk option
- Isolation – keep the risk away from others by making the area secure or off-limits
- Engineering controls – use of appropriate mechanisms to prevent hazard, such as increased ventilation
- Administration controls – assess procedures and revise working practices to eliminate the risk, e.g. shortening work hours on a task or rotating staff on a task
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – provide safe and suitable equipment and clothing to protect from the hazard, e.g. safety goggles or use of gloves.
Safety data sheet
‘A Safety Data Sheet (SDS), previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is a document that provides information on the properties of hazardous chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace. For example an SDS includes information on:
The identity of the chemical
Health and physicochemical hazards
Safe handling and storage procedures
The SDS should always be referred to when assessing risks in the workplace’.
Specific risk controls
Depending upon the work environment, there may be different risks that are of importance and concern to your organisation. Employees may be faced with day-to-day hazards that with careful management and the right controls, will pose no threat. Be aware of any industry-specific controls that your organisation may need to put into place, some are mentioned below.
Hazardous manual tasks/lifting
For this type of work all staff should have training on the correct way to perform their manual tasks. Any additional equipment or assistance from colleagues needed for these tasks, should be provided and a strict observance of working hours and break times to minimise physical effects to the body. Injuries with manual work can develop over a period of time or suddenly due to repetitive or sustained force, high or sudden force, strain to the posture or parts of the body and exposure to vibrations.
To lift items safely, you should:
- Check the item being lifted for weight and how to hold
- If the item is too heavy or awkward, ask for help to lift this
- When ready to lift, pace your feet correctly – feet apart, one foot beside the load and one slightly behind it
- Bend your knees and keep a straight back
- Grip the item firmly with both hands and keep item close to the body
- Raise your head and pull your chin in to help keep your back straight
- Tighten you core /stomach muscles to help support your back
- Straighten your legs to lift to waist level (keep elbows close to your body
- Do not twist your body, to turn and move you should use your feet
- To put the item down, use the same process of carefully bending the knees with a straight back and make sure the item is not placed on feet or toes.
Most commonly experienced in offices and workplaces where the same tasks are performed day-long. This can include work on computer/keyboard and also in manufacturing when working on a production line. This can be relieved by ensuring regular breaks are taken and, if possible, tasks are rotated so the person can move position to change posture, or to stop the repetitive motion. If an employee suffers from repetitive strain, it may be helped by specific ergonomic changes to the work area or equipment set-up.
When working in areas where hygiene and careful environmental controls are required there is a need for strict guidance on work procedures to prevent infection. This is most notably seen in the food industry, within hospitals and dentists and also in laboratories or some areas of manufacturing. A strict code of hygiene is needed to prevent infection or contamination, and employees will usually wear specific items of clothing to maximise their protection and the protection of others. They will also follow very specific working practices and in any event of possible infection, they should report this immediately to their manager/supervisor.
Always follow the correct guidelines and procedures when working with chemicals. Make sure you follow all instructions and safety data sheets (SDSs) precisely. All employees should be equipped with the knowledge needed to understand how to use and work safely with chemicals. Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and make sure that the items are in good repair and safe to use. If any items are damaged or broken, speak to your manager/supervisor. All staff should have access to full-protective PPE and should not be put at risk.
Whichever industry you may work in, when using machinery there is a need to follow the stated safety guidelines at all times. Employees should be competent in their use of machinery and training should be given as needed and supervision of the work area. PPE is vital to protect the person, such as ear muffs for high noise-levels and visors to protect their eyes. All machinery should be maintained and serviced as needed, to ensure optimum safety.
2.2 – Organisational procedures are followed to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
Follow organisational procedures to ensure compliance
Different work places will have different procedures to follow to ensure compliance and you will be made aware of these procedures when you start with the organisation.
Selecting, operating, cleaning and maintaining equipment
You should be aware of the different types of equipment you will need to use and the purposes for each so that you can correctly select and operate them. You will need to ensure you have read the manual for equipment you use and in some cases you may require on the job training to be able to operate equipment.
- Handling equipment:
- Forklift trucks
- Pallet truck
- Electronic systems and displays:
- Ordering systems
- Filing systems
- Fuel management systems
- Analog devices
- Digital devices
- Display devices
- Recording devices
- Summing devices
- Integrating devices
- Processing equipment:
- Vehicles for transporting goods e.g. vans and trucks
- Personal protective equipment:
- Gowns and waterproof aprons that comply with Australian/New Zealand standards
- Examination gloves and surgical gloves that comply with current Australian/New Zealand standards
- Glasses, goggles or face-shields
- Surgical face masks that comply with current Australian/New Zealand standards
- Footwear to protect from dropped sharps and other contaminated items
Personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) is important in maintaining safety when working in hazardous environments and handling contaminated items – it stops the transmission of harmful microorganisms from the environment to the worker.
Cleaning and maintaining equipment may involve different cleaning methods depending on the equipment and organisational requirements.
Disinfection kills all microorganisms, except their spores. It is required when there are bodily fluid spills or if there is an infection outbreak.
Diluted bleach is a common disinfectant, which is found in many commercial cleaners. Bleach is used diluted one part bleach to nine parts water. Areas should first be washed with hot, soapy water before disinfectant is applied.
Methods of cleaning include:
- Vacuum cleaning removes dust and debris
- Detergent cleaning is used for general cleaning removing grease and dirt
- Screen wipes – for cleaning computer screens and other display equipment
- Pressure washing
- Disinfection kills all microorganisms, except their spores. It can be either thermal or chemical in nature, with the former the preferable method.
- Sterilisation removes all living organisms, including any spores – it is used in areas where cleanliness is critical. Methods of sterilisation include:
- Low temperature hydrogen peroxide plasma sterilisation
- Ethylene oxide
- Dry heat sterilisation
- Flash sterilisation
- Low temperature paracetic acid
- Steam under pressure (moist heat).
You will need to clean machinery and equipment according to manufacturer’s instructions. This is important as you may damage equipment if you use the wrong method.
You may be required to place appropriate signs to indicate clean, dirty and hazardous areas in the workplace. This will prevent workers from contaminating clean areas and advise them to exercise safety procedures in dirty and hazardous areas.
The signs can also instruct people to take certain actions before entering an area, such as wear PPE, remove contaminated clothing, wash hands etc.
Make sure that the clean and contaminated areas are clearly marked and that no contaminated areas enter the ‘clean’ zone (and vice versa for the ‘contaminated’ zone)
Equipment should also be regularly checked for maintenance issues, your organisation will probably have a schedule for this.
Policies, procedures and protocols
You should always check your work order and even notice boards that may be present around the work place to ensure you do not miss out on updates or important information regarding procedures.
A procedure is a set of instructions informing you how to do something. It may specify who is responsible for the action i.e. manager or all employees, it often includes information about where and when e.g. after finishing work for the day you must shut down your computer and make sure it is turned off.
To cut down on fuel consumption, you might have a procedure that states you should use as few journeys as possible – for example, if you have two items to deliver which are quite close to each other, you should not make two separate journeys.
They may also have contact numbers for any problems e.g. if you do not have access to recycling boxes or bins. These notices can be placed around the desk area, put in an employee handbook and emailed to employees as part of the communication plan for implementing the policy.
Compliance to procedures is important as they can protect employees from harm e.g. health and safety procedures, ensures consistency throughout the organisation and compliance ensures that all relevant federal, state and local government laws, by-laws, regulations and codes of practice are followed. This means a better reputation for the organisation, legal protection for employees if anything goes wrong and sustainability of the organisation as a business.
Compliance includes meeting relevant federal, state and local government laws, by-laws, regulations and codes of practice, as well as monitoring staff.
Checklist for procedures:
- All operations are performed in accordance with procedures.
- Procedures include all relevant workplace procedures, work instructions, temporary instructions and relevant industry and government codes and standards.
- Where reference is made to industry codes of practice, and/or Australian/international standards, the latest version must be used.
You should be notified in an appropriate way about organisational policy so that you can keep up to date with any changes to policy. You may be notified through meetings, email or any other relevant method depending on your organisation’s policies and supervisor’s preferences. You may be selected to help with enforcing policy compliance.
What is a compliance audit?
An audit is a systematic, independent and documented verification process of objectively obtaining and evaluating audit evidence to determine whether specified criteria are met.
The specified criteria will be drawn from the relevant environmental legislation and codes of practice which apply in your state or territory.
Things you would likely audit against your organisations practices matched to the relevant environmental legislation.
- Air and water quality, waste, contaminated land
- Noise control, pesticides, hazardous chemicals
- Transport of dangerous goods,
- Forestry and radiation
- Conservation legislation protecting biodiversity and threatened species
- Legislation protecting aboriginal cultural heritage.
Meeting relevant laws, by-laws and regulations or best practice to support compliance in environmental performance and sustainability at each level as required (such as Environmental Protection or Biodiversity Conservation Act):
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s central piece of environmental legislation. It provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places — defined in the EPBC Act as matters of national environmental significance.
The complexity of some natural resources can make it difficult to ensure that the information being collected will provide the answers needed.
If your business is likely to perform an action or activity that will affect the environment, find out if you will need approval under the EPBC Act.
For more information about this please see: https://www.environment.gov.au/epbc
Licences & permits
Approvals for environmental licences and permits can be obtained from federal, state and local environmental agencies. The type of approval you need will depend on the jurisdiction and type of business activity.
If your activity or action is likely to impact on areas of national environmental significance, you can obtain licences and permits from the federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA). These include areas requiring special protection such as world and national heritage sites, wetlands, habitats of threatened or migratory species, federal marine areas and nuclear actions.
You should also be aware that importing or exporting wildlife products, hazardous waste, ozone-depleting substances or synthetic greenhouse gases may be restricted by quarantine and will require special approval through the DEHWA.
State and local
If your activity is likely to impact on the local environment, such as parks, heritage sites, air and water, you can obtain licences and permits through your state or local governments.
Use the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts’ Protected Matters Search Tool to search your local area and see if it’s likely to be affected by the EPBC Act.
Waste management example
Using waste management as an example of environment responsibility the commercial industry sectors have any number of measures and subsequent actions to employ for improvement opportunities.
These can solve issues such as:
- Waste handling
- Waste collection
- Waste streams
- Bulk waste containment plans
- Waste transport planning and handling
To improve the environment position within a single organisation, using again waste management as an example, it is pointless analysing and organising information from a range of sources looking for environmental best practice unless you have committed space and time to achieve this.
In the example of waste management the determination of a ‘waste management plan’ will be the first critical step.
The challenge in the end is to develop a program based on improvement opportunities that is sustainable and measurable and compliant.
For gathering information on what to do, look at what not to do.
It’s an offence to….
Incorrectly dispose of waste
Negligently harm or likely to harm the environment
Wilfully or negligently cause a substance to leak, spill or otherwise escape in a manner that harms or is likely to harm the environment
Breach air, water, noise and other pollution control legislation
Create a serious threat to public health
(…and the list is almost endless).
Storing and transporting waste
Clinical waste containers should be clearly labelled and closed securely. The labels should indicate what is inside and show any hazards associated with the contents (see symbols in 6.2).
The trolleys that are used to transport hazardous materials should also be clearly labelled, so they are not used for other purposes (preventing cross-contamination).
Trolleys should be fitted with drip trays (for spills), cleaned daily and not overfilled.
Waste should be stored in an area that has the following qualities:
- The floor is non-absorbent, so it can contain spillages and be easily cleaned
- It only stores waste
- It is locked and only accessible by authorised personnel
- Has signage indicating biohazards
- Contains a spills kit
- Is regularly cleaned
- Is refrigerated (to prevent reproduction of harmful microorganisms).
Anyone coming into contact with waste should wear appropriate PPE and follow precautions, as described earlier in this unit.
Disposing of waste safely
Waste disposal procedures should follow national guidelines/codes of practice, as well as any state/territory and local regulations. This may include collection of waste by Environment Protection Authority (EPA)-accredited contractors. The vehicles that transport the waste should have transport permits and biohazards signs on them, to indicate the risks.
Disposal of waste requirements may include:
- Disposal in accordance with:
- Environment Protection (Waste Management) Policy
- Environment Protection (Waste Management) Regulations
- Australian and New Zealand standards
- Organisation policies and procedures.
What are your organisation’s policies and procedures for safe waste disposal? Take some time to find these out.
Where there are opportunities to minimise waste production and boost sustainable practice, you should try and incorporate them into work procedures.
2.3 – Environmental breaches or potential breaches are reported to appropriate personnel
Breaches of environmental and organisational regulations are a serious matter and should be reported to the appropriate personnel as soon as possible. For example, you notice a member of your team is disposing of chemical waste down/near a storm water drain; this is against government and environmental laws and therefore would be a fineable offence for both the employer and the company. Both the main water ways and storm water drains are protected by laws and therefore any actions going against this would be seen as a breach of environmental regulations.
- Environmental Agency Worker (If within your authority).
Breaches or potential breaches should be reported no matter how insignificant they may appear to ensure the company you are working for do not incur any fines but more importantly to ensure no accidents occur due to the breach.
How you report breaches or potential breaches may vary depending on your organisation. Any breach involving an incident should be reported using a written method, such as an incident report form. Otherwise, you may report face-to-face, over the phone or by email.
Incident report forms
It may be part of your organisational policy to complete an incident report form. The essential elements to an incident report involve answering the following questions about the incident.
- Who is reporting the incident? Who is affected by it?
- What happened?
- What action did you take?
- How severe is the incident? (you may use an incident severity scale)
- When did the incident take place?
- Where did the incident take place?
- How and why?
- What were the elements that contributed to the incident?
The following table demonstrates the essential components of an incident report and how they might be used to guide you to giving details on incidents.
A good incident report should be:
- Complete – it should cover all components in relevant detail
- Concise – it should include everything that is needed but exclude flowery descriptions, abbreviations can be used put sparingly as they can also cause confusion and detract from the writing
- Specific – It should make reference to exact times, dates and other facts
- Objective – It should not give opinions or inferences
- Confidential – the identities of who was involved and where it took place should not be revealed in the ‘what happened’ box as this has to be sent to the Department of Health.