Kitcher Risk Solutions

We understand how important the performance of your employees is to delivering your strategic aims. We can strengthen their effectiveness across a wide range of human performance areas with reviews of the effectiveness of your programs and advice on current international good practice.

Fitness for Work

In order to work safely and deliver desired business outcomes it is imperative that workers (employees and contractors) are physically and mentally fit to work.

Many work tasks involve complex physical and mental processes requiring perception, judgement and dexterity. A range of medical conditions can impair an individual’s performance of these work tasks and thus increase the risk of performing the task unsafely.

While the fitness of all workers is important there are some roles that involve activities that can place workers at immediate and significant risk of harm unless the person has full, unimpaired control of their physical and mental capabilities. Workers in these roles would be expected to demonstrate fitness through more robust processes than for the general population.

Impairment can be caused by many factors and the control of such impairment is similarly expansive.

Legislative Obligations

Work health and safety legislation places duties of care on businesses and workers. These duties have a bearing on fitness for work management, setting requirements at a high level without prescribing specific medical or fatigue risk controls.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 sets a number of obligations, including; a primary duty of care obligation placed on a person conducting a business or undertaking, and a duty to take reasonable care, comply with instructions and cooperate, which is placed on workers.

Some legislation is more prescriptive in nature. Regulations for mine safety and rail safety do include prescribed requirements for both health and fitness management, and fatigue control but are not generally applicable in other industries.

Regulations for road transport driver licensing will apply to most Network businesses’ workers who will typically be licensed to drive road vehicles. Other than eye sight tests, medical examinations are only mandatory for drivers holding a multi-combination license (for B-doubles and road trains) but they may be requested by Roads and Maritime Services for other drivers.

Fitness for Work Management System

Fitness for work matters affect workers on a very personal level which should be understood when developing suitable management processes.  Worker fitness places responsibility on individuals as well as businesses, for example, the requirement on workers to arrive for work free from the effects of alcohol.  As a result of the personal impacts, worker fitness is one of the most industrially sensitive areas of safety management.  Added to this is the complexity inherent in most fitness aspects where there are rarely precise limits above or below which risk is definitely acceptable.

Companies, and sometimes industries, adopt an approach to the management of safety to suit their business. This can range from adopting rules-based prescription and compliance, to advanced risk-based systems. The diagram below indicates this continuum and the factors influencing decisions on the most effective approach. Along that continuum the levels of flexibility increase but so does the complexity and the requirement for sophisticated management practices.

Adoption of a system that is too complex to be supported by the organisational maturity or structure is unlikely to be followed in practice and leaves the business exposed. The business may believe that safety risks are adequately controlled when in fact those controls are not being delivered. Adoption of too simplistic a system may not enable the business to deal with its risk profile due to an inability to construct rules sufficiently clearly to cater for higher, unforeseen or rapidly changing risks.

It is more common for companies working in high risk industries, such as petrochemicals, transport or mining, to adopt complex risk based safety management systems and then drive their business culture and maturity to a level that enables those systems to work effectively.

In industrially sensitive, complex risk environments there is often the need for a hybrid approach where some level of prescription sets minimum standards below which the business should not drop but allows for greater complexity where organisational capacity allows.