Injury reduction through effective hazard management

A statistical analysis of Electrical Group Training's (EGT) injury data over the last 3 years shows that for every one million hours worked, 36 of our apprentices suffered injuries which required treatment from a medical practitioner. To put this number into perspective, a generally accepted industry number for this type of injury is three.

How are these injuries occurring?

A simple explanation as to how injuries occur comes from the WHY TREE injury investigation model. For an injury to occur, we need the following:

We can’t remove the worker from the equation, so our only options are to either remove the hazard or to place a barrier between the worker and the hazard. This simple equation highlights the importance of the hazard identification and mitigation process.

A simple model for safety management can be seen in the diagram below. 

As the model shows, Spot the hazard – Assess the risk – Make the change is the central component of safety management and negative outcomes prevention. All the other parts of the management system as shown in the outer boxes are simply tools to allow us to do this.

Risk Assessment Checklist

One of the most powerful processes we have in EGT's arsenal is the last-minute risk assessment which we call the Risk Assessment Checklist (RAC). This process is the mental hazard assessment of a task conducted by the apprentice on arrival at the worksite and prior to task commencement. It is intended to focus the apprentice’s attention on the task to be performed and the environment that it is to be executed in.  The intent of the process is to help identify any unsafe behaviours and hazardous conditions that may have been missed in preparation for the work or which may have developed during the job. 

This process is not unique to EGT, it is widely used by other organisations and known by various other names, some being:

  • START Card
  • Take 5
  • SLAM (Stop, Look, Assess, Manage)
  • SAM (Stop, Assess, Manage)
  • STAR (Stop, Think, Act, Review)
  • Step-back

EGT mandates this process for our apprentices, conducts a lot of training in the process at pre-apprenticeship and inductions sessions and its use is monitored by our Field Officers during their periodic site visits. 

Although the sample size is small, some recent worksite visits indicated that when the supervisor or supervising tradesperson conducted the RAC with the apprentice, the RAC showed improved hazard identification and understanding of the hazards by the apprentice, when compared to those where the apprentice conducted the RAC on their own. This higher level of hazard identification and understanding of the hazards when the tradesperson is involved could be attributable to the lack of experience of the apprentices to sufficiently identify the hazards on their own. 

The value of experience

This lack of experience which increases the apprentice’s vulnerability to occupational injuries is further recognised by the regulators.  

“Young workers have an increased risk of workplace injury due to lack of experience” - SAFE WORK AUSTRALIA.

“Young workers were particularly vulnerable and needed extra care and attention from supervisors, young workers often lack experience and can be reluctant to ask questions. They need to be educated about the risks involved in their jobs” - WORKSAFE VICTORIA

SAFEWORK NSW lists inexperience in the job and/or at the individual workplace as one of the specific factors for occupational injuries.

The value of experience cannot be overrated and was best highlighted by Carl Rogers (1961) in his book 'On Becoming a Person':  

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience.” 

The path forward

As a future means of reducing the medical treatment injuries experienced by our apprentices and to improve their hazard recognition skills, EGT is advocating that the person who best knows and understands the hazards associated with the worksite and the execution of the task (ie. the supervisor or supervising tradesperson) engages with the apprentice during the performance of the RAC process. 

This will allow the apprentice to benefit from the knowledge of the person who has the most experience in recognising the hazards associated with the task to be performed.