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. Plant can cause injuries by trapping limbs, cutting, burning, crushing, electrocution, and damaging hearing. Risks must be identified and either (preferably) eliminated or adequately managed.

Hazardous plant

Plant that relies exclusively on manual power for its operation and is designed to be primarily supported by hand (other than hand-held explosive power tools) is not covered by specific OHS legislation (Plant Regulations). This would include hand tools such as saws, screwdrivers etc. The general duty of care under the OHS Act applies to this type of plant.

"Hazardous plant" under the OHS legislation is generally powered plant. It can be powered by electricity, steam, compressed air or other means. It includes hand held powered electric tools and equipment. It also includes non-powered structures and equipment such as scaffolds, lifting tackle and harness equipment. "Hazardous plant" is subject to specific regulation. In particular there are requirements to carry out documented risk assessments (and review them every five years at least).

Certain kinds of plant, such as forklifts, cranes and some pressure equipment require a licence from the regulator to operate and some high-risk plant must be registered with the regulator: see Plant Registration and Operator Licensing (PDF, 45.8 KB).

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

Managing plant health and safety risks

Managers must:

  • Plan for the purchase of safe machinery
  • Check the machine for general hazards
  • Check guarding
  • Check maintenance and servicing procedures
  • Train your workers
  • Supervise the work at an appropriate level

In particular 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 HWS Unit in Human Resources (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 Science, Engineering and Built Environment and the Directors, Institute of Frontier Materials, Centre for Intelligent Systems Research, 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 HWS 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, lifts, plant on roofs).

Plant safety basics

Safe plant operations require a knowledge of the following:

  • Guarding plant: A guard is a physical or other barrier which prevents contact with moving parts or controls access to dangerous areas of plant. Guarding is installed to prevent workers getting clothing or body parts caught by a piece of plant, or to prevent work pieces being expelled from the plant and striking people.
  • Operator controls: Well designed and set out operator controls will minimise the risk of error and injury. Controls must be easily accessible for operation, and identified as to their function, be prevented from unintentional activation, and be able to be locked in the “off” position
  • Emergency stops: Must be of the “stop and lock-off” type if the plant is to be operated or attended by more than one person.
  • Warning devices: Used where there is a likelihood of moving plant colliding with other plant or workers in the vicinity of plant.
  • Isolation procedures: A set of predetermined steps that should be followed where workers are required to perform tasks such as maintenance, repair, installation, service and cleaning of plant.

Requirements applying to specific plant include:

  • Roll-over protection for tractors and other mobile plant
  • For powered mobile plant, in general the risks of the plant overturning, objects falling on the operator and the operator being ejected from the mobile plant must be controlled.
  • For lift trucks (fork-lift trucks) there is a requirement that all attachments used with the lift truck are appropriate to the task, including any attachments used for the lifting of people.
  • Scaffolds are only to be erected by persons that have the relevant competency certification and experience, and erected and used in accordance with the relevant legislative requirements.  Where scaffolds are to be left unattended the person in charge of the scaffold is to prevent access to the scaffold as far as is practicable.
  • Provisions must be made to ensure that persons working at height in a lift well have adequate protection for working at heights. Other persons should be protected from falling into or otherwise accessing open lift wells.  Measures should also be taken to minimise and control the risk of falling objects striking a person working in a lift well, and control any risks that might arise from the movement of the lift car.

More information on plant safety and safety requirements can be found at:

Plant safety compliance procedure


Resources / Tools

Step 1: If needed, nominate a Plant Safety Officer to oversee the compliance program
  • Required for Faculty of Health, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, Institute of Frontier Materials, Centre for Intelligent Systems Research, Facilities Services, eSolutions and Logistics
Step 2: Create a plant register
  • A copy of the assets register is a good place to start: obtain from Financial 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
Step 3: Establish if plant requires registration or notification
Step 4. Dispose of any old, disused or seldom used, obviously unserviceable, equipment identified during the register creation process and prior to testing.
  • Do not fill up stores with old equipment.
  • If you need to keep an old piece of equipment for a period, put a “dispose by tag ……….” on it
Step 5. Develop and implement an appropriate Plant Risk Assessment form or method
Step 6: Develop Safe Operating Procedures
Step 7. Set up an appropriate training schedule and operator approval process.
  • Plant must only be operated by appropriately trained people.
  • Where training has been conducted documents should be maintained with the following information:
    • Date of the training session;
    • Outline of the training session; and
    • Names and signatures of persons attending the training.
Step 8: Determine if competencies or licences are required to operate or maintain any of the items of plant
  • see Plant Registration and Operator Licensing (PDF, 45.8 KB).
  • see Checklists
  • Develop a set of parameters on how licences or competencies will be verified or maintained for existing and new staff.  Details of how the competency was verified should be recorded, including what was asked in documentation, knowledge and demonstration to ensure the person was competent to perform the task and use the item of plant
Step 9. Set up a maintenance, testing and assessment schedule based upon the register.
  • The maintenance and testing schedules must be based upon the manufacturer’s recommendation or that of a competent person. Maintenance should occur at least annually.
  • Inspections should include functionality of safety devices such as guards, and emergency stops.
  • The risk assessment process should occur before purchase and must be completed before the plant becomes operational. Risk assessments must be reviewed every five years.
  • Particular attention must be given to equipment that is hired or loaned to others.
  • Each area of the University must ensure that any record of inspections and maintenance carried out on the specified plant is retained for the period that the University has management or control of the plant
Step 10. Identify who is going to carry out the maintenance and testing.
  • Any maintenance or testing of plant must be carried out by a competent person. You are also responsible for any induction and supervision.
Step 11: Ensure that all unsafe or failed items are removed from service immediately, tagged as such, and repaired or disposed of promptly.
  • Appliances which fail a test/inspection shall be labelled with a ‘Danger – Do Not Use’ tag to indicate that they must not be used.
  • Refer to the Fixed Assets procedure when disposing of plant.
Step 12: Set up a purchasing and approval process for new plant
Step 13: Set up a regular review process for the plant register.
  • As a minimum, every 12 months

Plant Safety Checklists

New plant

Before buying new plant, obtain information on hazards, risk and safe operation from the supplier or manufacturer and consult relevant Australian Standards. Review the information from the supplier or manufacturer by conducting and documenting a risk assessment on the proposed use of the plant as part of the decision making process regarding the purchase of the plant.

If it is decided to acquire plant, ensure steps in Plant safety compliance procedure are followed, and

  • Review compliance of the plant with the relevant Australian Standards. This is critical with directly imported plant
  • Ensure plant is installed in such a way that safe operation of the plant will be possible
  • Conduct and document a risk assessment upon the commissioning of the plant
  • Ensure the operation of the plant is safe and without risk to health before the initial operation of the plant.

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

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Procedure under development.

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: see Plant Registration and Operator Licensing (PDF, 45.8 KB). Contact HWS Unit in Human Resources 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
  • designing plant for use by others in the University.
Page custodian: Human Resources Division
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