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How much supervision is enough supervision?

How much supervision is enough supervision is a question that challenges organisations of any size when it comes to safety. But how should you make this assessment?

The challenge with supervision is that it involves a number of considerations and there is no ‘one size fits all’.

There is no doubt that from a legislative point of view an employer has the obligation to ensure that workers are appropriately trained and instructed to follow safe procedures of work.

If that has occurred, then why is there a need to provide supervision?

The simple point is that people don’t always follow the procedure for a number of reasons ranging from taking short-cuts, neglect or fatigue, or even because of circumstances changing resulting in the procedure needing to be modified.

And it is often at times like that there is a greater risk of injury.

The challenge is there is only limited numbers of supervisors and a lot of work that could potentially be supervised.

This means that some careful allocation of resources must be done based on factors including:

  • The type of work that is involved. Work that obviously involves a higher degree of risk, e.g. work with dangerous chemicals or high-risk construction work.
  • Whether the work being undertaken is with new plant or equipment.
  • Whether the work is conducted in remote or isolated locations with potentially limited access to emergency services. Real practical considerations arise as to how this type of work can be actually supervised. The use of technology can often assist.
  • Whether the activity or task requires interaction between many workers who may have different levels of expertise.
  • Whether it is work where fatigue is likely, e.g. night shifts.
  • Whether workers may be young or inexperienced.

The questions you should be asking yourself today are: Do you know what work activities in your organisation require supervision from a safety perspective? Are you satisfied that the level of supervision for those activities is adequate?

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