Under the SafeWork Australia’s Model WHS Regulations, particular types of work have been identified as being hazardous; requiring specific skills, capabilities and licences. These work activities require a worker to obtain the appropriate licence before they can commence work.
These licences are issued to applicants after they have received the appropriate training and demonstrated that they are competent to do the high-risk work safely. The worker must then apply to the WHS regulator in their state or territory for a licence.
The SafeWork Australia’s Model WHS Regulations, states a worker must not perform high-risk work unless a worker is over 18 years and holds the right high-risk work licence. High-risk work includes the operating a forklift truck.
What can an employer expect from high-risk work licence training?
A Person Conducting a Business and Undertaking (PCBU) needs to understand that if a worker is holding a high-risk licence it does not automatically mean that the worker has all the skills and experience to carry out the work. The worker may still require both on-the-job training and instructions in using the equipment on site.
By issuing a high-risk work licence a registered training organisation confirms that the worker has:
- completed the required unit of competency
- been assessed as competent and
that the assessment was
- conducted by a registered qualified assessor.
Thus, a high-risk work licence is evidence only, that a worker has completed the training and assessment as required by the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations.
Hence; the PCBU should not conclude that possession of a high-risk work licence means that the worker has the experience and skills required for specific workplace tasks or more complicated high-risk work licence work. There are still requirements from both the worker and the PCBU in regards to high-risk work and a high-risk work licence.
What are the duties of a worker regarding high-risk work?
Under the workplace health and safety laws workers are required to:
- take reasonable care to ensure their health and safety at work
- avoid adversely affecting the health and safety of other workers through any act or omission at work and
- co-operate with the PCBU/supervisor in relation to operational matters and WHS requirements.
In a nutshell, workers are obliged to ensure they have appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to do work which requires a high-risk work licence as directed by their workplace. If there are doubts in this regard, then the worker has a duty to advise the supervisors immediately.
What are the duties of the PCBU regarding high-risk work?
The PCBU have a duty under the WHS legislation are to:
- satisfy themselves that the worker has the necessary experience and skills in the plant and equipment being operated, task being undertaken, the safe system of work utilised by the site and specific site and/or area hazards and controls
- provide the information, instructions, training and supervision of the worker/s, to enable them to perform their work in such a manner that they are not exposed to hazards.
This requires the PCBU/supervisor to ensure that the competency of a worker is assessed prior to assigning tasks at the work site. This can be done through the process of verification of competency.
What is verification of competency?
The PCBU has the duty to ensure that:
- Workers conducting work requiring a high-risk work licence are competent for the specific tasks they are assigned.
- They verify competence, via assessment, to ensure a worker has correct skills, knowledge and experience to safely use plant or equipment, for a particular task, to site procedures and conditions.
Verification of competency should be evidence-based and confirmed before work commences. Examples of verifying competency include:
- Recognition of prior learning (RPL) where a worker has been doing the job for many years; however, has not been assessed or has conducted formal training elsewhere but has not been assessed
- On-site recognition of current competency (RCC)is where a worker holds competency from either on or off-site assessment, however requires it to be recognised for reassessment purposes or/and holds competency from off-site assessment and needs verification that the site and job-specific development of skills and knowledge is adequate
- Site training and development program is where a worker has completed the site’s formal competency training program and is ready for assessment.
Determining site specific competency
Verification of competency (VOC) requirements must be determined by the site as competency can depend on various factors, for example:
- Risk of work to be undertaken – Is it a task that may not be adequately covered in national training?
- Previous experience of worker – Has the worker held the high-risk work licence for three years, but not used it in that time.
- Known occurrences on site or in industry – Reoccurrences where workers incorrectly sling loads even though it is already covered in the national assessment tool.
- Is it a piece of plant unknown to the worker – high-risk work licence for light forklift (LF) was obtained using a 1-ton gas forklift on a concrete floor warehouse and they are going to use a 10-ton diesel forklift on your site to move equipment around an uneven dirt road?
WorkSafe Queensland stated that the PCBU must provide site-specific and refresher training to maintain and enhance the workers’ skills; induction training for new or changed work environments, traffic management plans, policies and safe work procedures; maintain a register of licensed forklift operators and provide sufficient instruction and training where purpose-designed attachments are used.
Forklifts can cause serious accidents and fatalities and prevention and vigilance is paramount to ensure safety in the workplace. As a PCBU if is important to be diligent in following through with the responsibility of mitigating the risk associated with the workplace activities.