Are your workplace supervisors suitable for the role?
By Joanna Weekes
Supervisors take responsibility for day-to-day tasks in your workplace by providing the necessary direction, coordination and oversight.
To be able to do this, supervisors must be adequately trained and have a thorough understanding of their responsibilities.
A supervisor’s responsibilities will vary depending on the size of your company, but generally will include things such as:
- developing, reviewing, maintaining safe work procedures;
- training workers and contractors in the relevant safe working procedures, e.g. machinery, equipment, substances and material;
- carrying out job safety analyses;
- identifying and controlling hazards;
- providing leadership and encouragement on safety issues;
- advising on effective measures to control hazards and risks;
- providing a means of communication between workers and management;
- ensuring the proper selection, issue, use, maintenance and storage of personal protective equipment (PPE);
- ensuring that all maintenance standards are met, e.g. machinery is serviced and equipment is stored appropriately;
- ensuring that all accidents, incidents and near misses are reported internally and investigated;
- ensuring that the first aid kit and safety equipment, e.g. fire hydrant, is adequate and properly maintained;
- ensuring that new or temporary workers and visitors are inducted in all safety measures when they enter the workplace;
- consulting workers about any proposed change to the workplace to control any adverse effects on health and safety;
- ensuring that workers (and contractors) are not affected by alcohol or drugs when they attend work; and
- monitoring workers throughout their shifts to ensure adequate rest breaks are taken and logged if necessary.
You need to be confident that your workplace supervisors have the knowledge and skills to manage or direct the work of others on your behalf. This will involve training, instruction and information in the necessary areas of work that they are supervising.
On top of this though, your supervisors will need training in leadership or supervision techniques, including:
- the responsibilities of the supervisor;
- how to motivate workers;
- workplace requirements under health and safety legislation;
- how to conduct a risk assessment;
- relevant safe work procedures;
- hazard inspection and identification;
- incident investigation; and
- any other area that may assist them in their role, e.g. manual handling, first aid.
You may want to think about having an authorised health and safety training professional provide your supervisors with appropriate training.
Remember, even when competent supervisors are used, you are still responsible for ensuring that the supervision of your workers is adequate. To some extent this may mean supervising your supervisors to ensure they are carrying out their functions properly.
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