By Joanna Weekes
As an employer, you have a duty to maintain a safe workplace. And the only way to ensure your workers are carrying out their safety obligations is to supervise them adequately.
The level of supervision required in your workplace depends on the nature of the work carried out, and the control measures used to control the risk. The riskier an activity and the less effective the control measure being used is, the higher the level of supervision the work task will require.
Supervision does not mean the constant surveillance of your workers’ work activities – rather, it means general direction, coordination and oversight.
What tasks in your workplace require supervision?
To determine which work tasks require supervision, you need to review the various activities in your workplace and assess how important supervision is for each of them on any particular day.
Whether a particular activity is more risky can depend on a number of factors. Start by categorising the activities by order of priority for supervision – take the following into account:
- The level of risk;
- The skills of your workers;
- The knowledge of your workers; and
- The experience of your workers.
Remember that in some workplaces, the requirements for supervision will vary from day-to-day and in other businesses the level of supervision required is the same every day.
Keep in mind that changes to your workplace and work tasks may mean that the level, frequency or type of supervision will need to change as well.
Make sure that when changes are made in your workplace, that you re-assess the work tasks and the level of supervision required to ensure that as your workplace evolves, so to do your health and safety systems.
How much supervision should you provide?
While this depends on the factors listed above, generally you need to be assured that your workers and other people working under your direct control have the capability to conduct their work safely.
Answer the following questions as a guide to identify activities in your workplace that may require greater supervision:
- Do any work tasks involve a high degree of risk (high-risk work)?
- Is work being performed by new or inexperienced workers?
- Is work being performed by apprentices or young workers?
- Do any work tasks involve using new or recently modified machinery?
- Do any of your workers have language difficulties or physical restrictions/limitations?
- Have any of your workers recently returned from long periods of leave (especially sick leave)?
- Do any of your workers work in remote or isolated locations?
- Do any work tasks require interaction between many different workers?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you need to look at the relevant work task and assess it to determine the level of supervision required to ensure the work task is carried out safely.
For example, if you have apprentices or young workers working for you, what level of training has the apprentice or young worker received in relation to the specific work task? An apprentice or young worker will need to be trained and receive an higher level of supervision than an experienced worker.
Another question to ask is whether you have suitable people providing supervision. And this is what your next Health & Safety Bulletin will discuss, so keep a lookout for that!