Date: January 21, 2016
Author: Golf Australia

Is your safety in place?

So the big day has come.  Your visit to the County Court to see what the Judge makes of your efforts on safety in the workplace.

It was avoidable, after all.  A few month ago, one of your experienced ground staff members, Mick, managed to cut the top of his ear clean off with a chainsaw.  Maybe the words clean off are misleading.  Either way, it was off.  Fortunately you still have Mick. It could have been a whole lot worse.

The scenario was a classic case of Mick cutting corners, but the judge will be interested if any other corners were being cut – by the club, in work place safety.

It was 10 minutes before morning tea and Mick had a tree bough to cut.   He had the chainsaw in the back of the Cushman, but not his protective equipment.  He decided not to go back and get the gear.  The area to be cut was around two metres off the ground. A suitable platform ladder was required because cutting above shoulder height is a well-known “no-no”. 

Mick made the call to go ahead, but it wasn’t a good one.  The chainsaw kicked back and Mick couldn’t get his head out of the way fast enough.

At hospital the incident was written up as a WorkCover claim.  A report was made and it was soon taken up by an inspector of workplace safety who quickly made contact with the club to come and visit.  He was a short and stocky man, not prone to small talk.  But he did, nevertheless, want to hear a few people talk.  He talked to the GM and course superintendent.  After seeing the location of the incident, he wanted a few things:

1) He wanted to see the club’s SOP – (safe operating procedure) for the chainsaw.  Fortunately this was in the shed and it was current. 

2) He wanted to see that Mick was trained.  The staff, including Mick, had received training only six months ago.  He also wanted to see the VOC (verification of competence) file for all pieces of equipment.  Each VOC indicated the staff with either a M-mentor, C- competent or T-trainee against their name.  Mick’s name had a ‘C’ against his name for the chainsaw.   He had years of experience with operating a chainsaw.   The course superintendent was able to explain that they used a buddy system for each piece of equipment in the shed.  In this system, the mentor would show a staff member how to use the equipment.  The staff member was then required to repeat the steps back to the mentor to prove the knowledge gained and that they were competent. 
3) The inspector wanted to see that the chainsaw was maintained and the records were kept as to the last servicing and maintenance.  Again, fortunately, this was all in place.

In court, the judge was able to conclude that the club had gone as far as reasonably practical in ensuring safe use of the chainsaw.  The chainsaw training that had occurred, the existence of SOP’s and VOC systems, the buddy system of training on all equipment, the record keeping and the maintenance that occurred on the chainsaw meant that the liability of the club was significantly reduced and so was the fine.

Knowing your responsibilities and being proactive around workplace safety is essential. 

Golf Australia recommends Monit for your safety management systems.  If you’d like to know more about Monit and having a person dedicated to your club who can manage your club’s WHS data online, call 1300 65 11 77