Plant (equipment)

This section places obligations on all managers.

"Plant", in the occupational health and safety (OHS) context, means any equipment or apparatus used in the operations of a workplace. Staplers, computers, hand-dryers, screwdrivers, forklifts, ladders, fume cupboards and many other things are considered to be plant. Items of plant vary greatly in the sorts of injuries that can be sustained from their use and thus the level of risk can vary. Risks must be identified and either eliminated or adequately managed.
Some plant is classified as "hazardous plant" under the OHS legislation and is subject to specific regulation. Hazardous plant includes any plant that is power operated and fixed and:

  • cuts, drills, punches or grinds material (e.g. powered guillotine)
  • presses, forms, hammers, joins or moulds material
  • combines, mixes, sorts, packages, assembles, knits or weaves material (e.g. collating photocopier)
  • lifts or moves materials or people (e.g. forklift)

Hazardous plant also includes boilers, pressure vessels, tractors, earthmoving machinery, lasers, scaffolds, abseiling equipment, harness equipment, and explosive-powered tools.

The OHS legislation is not only concerned with the use of plant in the workplace but also with its design, manufacture, installation and decommissioning.


Hazards arising from plant

Plant can cause injuries by trapping limbs, cutting, burning, crushing, electrocution, damaging hearing, and other ways, depending on the type of plant.

With plant, safe design, use for the correct purpose and regular maintenance are important for OHS.


Identifying plant

Managers must:

  • obtain from Financial and Business Services Division a copy of the fixed asset register for your area (note: only includes plant with a value in excess of $5,000)
  • using the register and other sources, identify "hazardous plant" used by staff (or students or contractors) in your area, including equipment in laboratories
  • then identify any other plant (equipment) apart from everyday minor items such as hand-operated staplers
  • make a list of all plant identified and the maintenance and testing requirements for each, including any replacement dates
  • complete the WorkSafe plant hazard checklist for all plant identified
  • review and update the list every 6 months, including adding new plant acquired
  • new plant should not be acquired without an evaluation of hazards and consideration of how they are going to be addressed
  • refer to the Fixed Assets procedure when disposing of plant.

Managing plant health and safety risks

Managers must:

  • consider each hazard identified for each item of plant and whether the hazard can be eliminated; if not eliminated, whether it can be reduced; and if a risk still remains, what safety precautions can be taken, for example -
    • can a sharp edge have a guard installed
    • can noise be muffled
    • can non-essential personnel be excluded from the vicinity of the plant
  • fix the hazard if reasonably practicable, otherwise reduce the risk and take safety precautions
  • record the hazards and how they have been addressed
  • plant which remains dangerous after that process should be discussed with the OHS Unit (e.g. plant with a faulty design which cannot be remedied and effective safety precautions are impossible or not reasonably practicable)
  • arrange for provision to operators of plant information, instruction and training about plant
  • establish a plant defect reporting process and where relevant, plant isolation practices (i.e. cut off power to plant awaiting repair or disposal)
  • routinely inspect equipment, talk to operators and review user manuals. Usually office electrical equipment such as computers and domestic-use equipment such as heaters would not be regarded as hazardous unless used for an unintended purpose (e.g. storage of flammable materials in domestic refrigerators.)

Some areas of the University control high risk plant and should have in place a more formal system. The Pro Vice-Chancellors of the Faculties of Health and Faculty of Scicence, Engineering and Built Environment and the Directors, Facilities Services, eSolutions and Logistics must nominate a senior officer to coordinate the above activities in each of their organisational areas. These officers will also be points of contact for the OHS Unit. In default of a nomination, contact will be made directly with the relevant Pro Vice-Chancellor or Director.

The Director, Facilities Services is to include on their list of identified plant any central shared plant, including electrical fixtures (e.g. switchboards).


Registration of some plant

Some plant, such as lifts, autoclaves and compressors (over 1 cubic metre in capacity) must be registered by the owning Faculty or Division with WorkSafe. Further advice can be sought from OHS.


Leased or loaned plant

Care should be taken when equipment is loaned, or provided, to a student, contractor or other third party. In particular:

  • check that the equipment regularly maintained
  • inspect the equipment for faults between loans
  • provide written instructions on its safe use.

Medical devices

Managers responsible for areas that use medical devices for testing, experimentation or non-clinical treatment must ensure that:

  • the equipment conforms to acceptable technical standards including Australian Standard 3551 Technical Management Programs for Medical Devices
  • any necessary approvals are obtained from the University Human Research Ethics Committee
  • where required under the therapeutic goods legislation, relevant approval is obtained from the Therapeutic Devices Branch of the Victorian Department of Human Services.
  • where radiation is involved, the device and its use comply with relevant standards (see section of this manual on radiation)

Design, manufacture and supply of plant

If you design, manufacture or supply plant for use in a workplace (including a University workplace), or are a manager responsible for such activity in the University, you must familiarise yourself with additional requirements in the OHS legislation. Contact the Manager, OHS for advice.

Examples of relevant activities by the University would be:

  • designing experimental equipment for use by a third party
  • designing pilot plant to be used by a business or research partner

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