Safety is paramount. Landcare groups are responsible for protecting their members and participants, and for recognising and managing risks. It is essential that groups operate in a safe manner at all times.
It’s not hard – just common sense!
Below are some simple steps to follow to help keep everyone safe. These are designed for use by volunteer organisations that do not employ people to carry out work.
Step 1. Get informed
Tasmania's safety laws are detailed in the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (Tasmania). The Act is based on national model work health and safety laws, adapted for use in most States, and published through Work Safe Australia. Work health and safety in Tasmania is overseen and enforced by Worksafe Tasmania, which is part of the Department of Justice.
It is important to note that the provisions of the Tasmanian Act apply to more than just businesses, but they apply in different ways all with the over-riding intention that everyone's safety is important and that everyone complies with legal requirements.
A useful summary of how volunteer organisations can comply with safety requirements is available from Safe Work Australia, along with a much more detailed version.
Worksafe Tasmania also publishes summary information for volunteer organisations. If you are in any doubt about your safety obligations, Landcare Tasmania recommends contacting Worksafe Tasmania for further information.
Step 2. Know where you fit
Safety laws apply differently depending on your role and type of organisation.
- Volunteer Association - is an organisation that is entirely voluntary and has no employees.
- Volunteer - someone who is not paid for their work for a volunteer association (reimbursement of expenses is fine). If you are a volunteer you must take reasonable care for your own (and other peoples’) health and safety.
- Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) - if you are a group of volunteers that employs someone then you are conducting a business or undertaking. In this case you must ensure the health and safety of workers, including volunteers you engage, consult with them on WHS matters, and provide them with adequate safety information, training and supervision. A group that engages contractors only is not a PCBU, as a contractor is not an employee.
- Volunteer Officer - is a volunteer within a PCBU who is a director, board or committee member (whether an incorporated or unincorporated organisation) and/or makes or participates in making decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the organisation. A volunteer officer must exercise due diligence in relation to safety but generally cannot be prosecuted for failure in that duty.
Landcare Tasmania recommends that groups who are a PCBU read these safety guidelines and then contact Worksafe Tasmania and request a visit from a Health and Safety Advisor.
Step 3. Develop a safety policy
A safety policy for your organisation is a useful resource for focusing attention and ensuring safety is considered in a timely and appropriate manner.
Landcare Tasmania has also produced a safety policy template for groups who are Volunteer Associations, based on the template provided by Worksafe Tasmania.
Step 4. Planning your event
Planning for the safety of your Landcare event is relatively simple but it is vital to get it right.
The most important safety component to include in your event planning is a Risk Assessment. You should conduct a Risk Assessment after you have planned what you want to do and achieve from your event.
A Risk Assessment should generally follow the four stage process recommended by Worksafe Tasmania. Landcare Tasmania provides a Risk Assessment Template that you can open and populate as you work through the following steps.
Note: Some organisations (e.g. Councils) and other land managers have their own Risk Assessments for volunteers and Volunteer Associations carrying out work on their land. Check with the owner or manager of the land whether they have their own Risk Assessment before using the template above.
1. Identify the hazards
A hazard is a situation or thing that has the potential to harm a person. Hazards are the physical things present in the environment or brought to the site where you where you will conduct an event that have the potential to cause harm. For community Landcare activities they will commonly include things like rough ground, sharp tools, dead branches in trees, watercourses, herbicides and machinery.
Landcare Tasmania has produced a generic list of potential hazards that may be identified for a Landcare event.
Use the list to identify the hazards that might apply to your event, and add them to the Risk Assessment template. If there are hazards associated with your event that don't appear in the list - add them to your Risk Assessment as well.
Remember: Safety is a continuous improvement process. If you think there are hazards that may arise regularly in activities and events then please contact Landcare Tasmania so we can update our list.
2. Assess the risks
Risk is the likelihood that a person might be harmed (e.g. death, injury, illness) when exposed to a hazard. For the hazards identified in above, risks might include sprained or broken ankles, cuts (that may or may not require stitches), death from a falling branch, hypothermia or drowning from falling into water, poisoning or being run over.
The range of risks that may exist for a Landcare activity is potentially large, and will vary depending on the activity being undertaken. For each hazard you identify, you will also need to list the risks associated with the hazard. Remember many hazards may have more than one associated risk so add these where needed.
Once your risks have been identified you need to turn it into a risk rating. Put simply the risk rating is a function of:
Likelihood x Consequence
Likelihood - the probability that a risk that may cause harm occurs.
Consequence - the severity of the harm that could result.
Likelihood and consequence can be assigned to simple categories, which will in turn determine the rating for the risk. Some sample categories are shown below.
|Likelihood class||Description||Consequence class||Description|
|Highly unlikely or rare||May occur only in exceptional circumstances, e.g. once every 5 years or more||Insignificant||No injuries|
|Unlikely||Not expected to occur in normal circumstances, e.g. may occur every 1-5 years||Minor||On-site first aid treatment, not requiring medical treatment or follow up|
|Quite possible||May occur occasionally, e.g. once few months or yearly||Moderate||Medical treatment may be required and/or loss of time due to injury|
|Likely||Will probably occur in most circumstances, e.g. may occur every few week||Major||Serious injury, including hospitalisation|
|Almost certain||Expected to occur in most circumstances, e.g. may occur daily||Catastrophic||Death or permanent disability|
Once risks have been assessed they can be converted to a Risk Rating.
The Risk Rating will then be used to guide how you respond to the risks. In safety terms this is called Control.
3. Control the risks
Risk control in safety means taking action to:
- first, try to remove any health and safety risks entirely; and
- if removal is not possible, reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
The Risk Ratings identified above can be used as a guide to how you can control a risk. Here are some examples.
Extreme risk - Do not proceed in any situation involving an Extreme risk. An example might be a large dead branch lodged in a tree on a windy day. The Likelihood might range from quite possible to likely and the Consequence could be catastrophic due to the possibility of death or permanent disability. In this instance the risk could be removed by locating the activity well away from the area of the tree, including possibly marking off the area and definitely including the presence of the tree in the safety induction for your event and giving clear instructions that it is not to be approached.
High risk - A High risk situation is one in which appropriate consultation will be required and any decision to proceed will need to be carefully considered. High risk situations will frequently arise where the use of powered machinery or hazardous substances is involved. Many High risk situations are ones in which professional assistance, e.g. using a contractor, may be required.
Worksafe Tasmania publishes a series of Safe Work Procedures for different types of machinery that should be consulted and implemented carefully. Certain classes of chemicals (e.g. some herbicides) would also be considered high risk.
Safety data sheets provided by manufacturers for chemicals and other hazardous substances should also be consulted and their directions followed.
A common High risk situation in Landcare activities is the risk of cuts from working with sharp tools. These are Likely to occur, though in most instances will be minor and require nothing more than on-site medical treatment. However the risk rating is still High as the POTENTIAL consequence is Moderate (not Minor) as all sharp tools have potential to result in injuries that require medical treatment or follow up. In this instance, however, the appropriate Controls might include:
- identifying the risk in the safety induction;
- highlighting safety instructions for each tool during the induction;
- ensuring there is adequate first aid equipment available at your event, and that its location is made known to participants;
- identifying people at the event who are competent in first aid, including any who have formal qualifications; and
- having a procedure in place to obtain medical treatment if required.
Moderate risk - Moderate risks can generally be controlled by having people experienced in the type of activity involved in its planning, and also in applying widely used and well known practices. Working in rough ground (hazard) will often be a Moderate risk as it is Quite Possible that an injury will occur, e.g. an ankle sprain (risk). An appropriate control might be a requirement that everyone involved in the event wear stout footwear that extends above the ankle.
Low risk - Low risk does not imply that control of risks is not required. Low risks can generally be managed through standard and common sense safety procedures that apply when undertaking any physical activity.
4. Evaluate the results
Evaluating whether your risk management has been effective is an important follow up action for your event. Even if there were no incidents or near misses, evaluation will still identify areas in which your safety preparations could be improved and hence help prevent incidents in the future.
So an important part of planning your event is to identify when and where safety will be evaluated, and how you will involve participants in that process.
Remember the more you involve people in your Risk Assessment, the more effective is it likely to be in protecting your volunteers from harm. As the old Chinese proverb says:
"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand."
You will need to prepare an Emergency Response Plan for your event. Conservation Volunteers Australia has produced a template for an Emergency Response Plan that you can use. It allows identification of key emergency services (e.g. fire, ambulance, police) as well as things like escape routes.
Its also a good idea to run through a site safety checklist before the event, to help ensure that no safety issues have been missed in your preparations. Conservation Volunteers Australia has also produced a suitable safety checklist you can use for this purpose. Remember that some items in the list might not apply to your event.
Step 5. One the day
There's a few things that will ensure your safety preparations up to this point will work smoothly and well.
1. Arrive early
If you are the organiser or coordinator of the event its important to arrive early. Arriving and setting up early will give you time to run through the Site Safety Checklist and also to do a final check of your Risk Assessment. Remember that if conditions at the site have changed you may need to revise the Risk Assessment prior to commencement. In some circumstances you may need to defer or even abandon the event.
2. Register all participants on arrival
It is vital that everyone at your event:
- registers their attendance;
- identifies any pre-existing medical conditions;
- receives a safety induction;
- signs to confirm they have received and understand the safety requirements; and
- provides their own and emergency contact details.
Landcare Tasmania has produced a registration form template that you can use for this purpose, or you can develop your own. Remember that if you omit the emergency contact details they will need to be collected on another form (e.g. the Emergency Response Plan).
Important: If a participant identifies a pre-existing medical condition they should also fill out an individual attendance form. Conservation Volunteers Australia has produced a form suitable for this purpose, which includes details of any conditions and can be used in the event that medical assistance (including on site minor assistance) is required.
Its not uncommon for participants to arrive late for events. It is vital that all late arrivals are registered and inducted, even if it means having to repeat the induction process.
3. Monitor the situation
Keeping an eye on safety aspects of the event is important. Its important that the Event Coordinator is readily accessible during the event, as they need to be available to receive reports of safety issues that participants may identify, respond promptly to any incidents, and maintain an overview of work being undertaken to identify arising safety issues and ensure compliance with the safety requirements.
If unforeseen risks are identified during your event you will need to quickly work out ways in which those risks can be controlled, and communicate this to participants.
4. And if something does happen...
- Immediately assess the situation. Your response to an incident should not put yourself or others at risk of further harm.
- Initiate appropriate first aid as soon as possible.
- If necessary seek medical assistance promptly.
Incidents, including near misses, need to be recorded and reported. As a minimum all incidents and near misses that occur during the event should be recorded. Conservation Volunteers Australia has produced a Register of Injuries form you can use for this purpose. It should be kept with your first aid kit.
As soon as possible after an incident you should fill out an Accident/Incident form. The form is needed to form the basis for learning from the incident and is essential if the incident may give rise to an insurance claim (e.g. where there is a serious injury). The Conservation Volunteers Australia Accident/Injury report form can be used to record this information.
Serious safety incidents are unfortunate and can be distressing or tragic. However they are also essential learnings from which safety can be continuously improved. Therefore as soon as possible after an incident you should aim to review the events that led to the incident. This may identify a deficiency in the risk assessment, unforeseen hazards, issues with training, lack of compliance with the conditions of participation, or extreme circumstances that could not be anticipated.
Information about serious incidents and their circumstances needs to be captured and an assessment undertaken to identify the cause(s), determine how it could have been prevented and how it can be prevented into the future. A Serious Incident Investigation Report has been produced for this purpose by Conservation Volunteers Australia. Continuous improvement in safety depends on building understanding of its many associated issues, so be sure to involve as many people as possible in your assessment.
What about insurance?
Most member groups of Landcare Tasmania have public liability insurance under our group insurance scheme. If an incident occurs that may give rise to an insurance claim you should promptly contact Landcare Tasmania who will initiate the necessary steps to access the protection provided through the policy.
For further information see our Insurance page.
Disclaimer: The information below has been collected from a range of sources in particular Worksafe Tasmania, Safe Work Australia and Conservation Volunteers Tasmania. Landcare Tasmania does not warrant that it is current or correct and does not accept responsibility for any costs or consequences arising from its use. Landcare Tasmania encourages everyone involved in activities that may include safety hazards and risks to become properly informed and to seek advice when uncertain.