Taking workplace health and safety into the field*

Article image - Taking workplace health and safety into the field*

Walgett Shire Council as part of its on-going commitment to risk management has chosen to think outside the square, and by doing so, has resulted in the Workplace Health and Safety Officer (WHS), Mr Dave Callander, moving from his office in the Walgett Shire Council administration building, to being completely autonomous and travelling around one of the states largest shires in his mobile office.

Covering 22,336 sq km, Walgett Shire has a main depot located in Walgett and satellite depots in Lightning Ridge and Collarenebri. There are also numerous small village depots dotted around the shire. 

Callander said the role of the WHS Officer was to ensure all staff are compliant with legislation, work sites are established and worked in a safe manner, to protect the interests of not only Council but, in his own words, ‘to make sure everyone gets home to their family each night’.

Council’s vision was to have a vehicle set up to enable travelling around the shire to perform the many and varied tasks as required. 

Travelling not only to the depots, but also to where the road crews are working, to the smaller towns and villages; providing advice and assistance on site rather than via a phone call from the main office which limits the degree of assistance and feedback from staff.

After much research, the vehicle chosen was a 2019 Hyundai iLoad van. It has a rear cargo space able to take two pallets, so it is roomy. 

The interior has been fitted with a shelving system accessible from the rear lift up hatch door.  

The slide doors located on either side of the vehicle give access to a two drawer filing cabinet and a portable fridge/freezer. 

The driver is protected by a cargo barrier thereby separating the passenger cabin from the cargo area to minimise the chance of items flying forward under braking.


Items carried by the WHS Officer include:

  • an electrical tag test unit for tag testing electrical items on any site,
  • a fire extinguisher testing kit to enable an audit of fire extinguishers onsite, and if any deficiencies are found – corrected immediately,
  • drug and alcohol testing equipment
  • a gas detector testing kit, ensuring that safety equipment utilised by crews that enter confined spaces is in good working order,
  • a safety harness is also located with the confined spaces kit for either rescue purposes or to just get in and help if the crews are short staffed,
  • a good supply of first aid equipment is carried to enable restocking of first aid kits in the field when performing an audit of kits,
  • enough equipment to allow for a proper investigation of an incident,
  • a playgrounds inspection kit as there are playgrounds in most of the towns and villages throughout the shire,
  • a filing cabinet containing enough templates and manuals to cover just about any situation that arises on site
  • a surface Pro10 with a wireless printer and a projector to enable onsite training to be conducted in a depot or under a tree at a road works site.
  • the vehicle is fitted with a pull out awning to create a shaded area at the side of the vehicle if having a quick chat with crews out of the sun whilst they eat lunch,
  • a heavy bull bar for protection and as a mounting point for the much needed driving lights,
  • a light bar mounted on the roof racks provides access to work sites where beacons are required; the lights are very bright and are useful at night to assist at road incidents as warning beacons,
  • a Cell Fi phone booster has been installed to give shire-wide coverage to the Telstra network; essential in a shire where communications is often of poor quality due to the lack of communication repeater towers,
  • two-way radio
  • a small table, whiteboard and various other small bits and pieces making up what amounts to a mobile office, and
  • a different style of signage on the outside of the vehicle that has given an increase in council’s exposure.

Callander said, “The van gives me the ability to be able to conduct audits, advise on safety issues, amend TCP’s if needed, test and tag not only electrical but also fire extinguishers, conduct drug and alcohol testing when needed, throw on a harness and assist a crew with confined space work, or conduct a simple training session on the side of the road. 

“This vehicle is a unique means of providing what is becoming one of the most essential services that an employer has to deliver to the workforce.

“This initiative is a real bonus for everyone. It enables a personal contact element between the safety officer and the workers. This personal touch is very important, particularly when trying to deliver a safe work environment, and at the end of the day ‘get everyone home to their family’”.

General Manager, Greg Ingham was very supportive of the initiative. 

“I am extremely confident our new way of doing business will foster a far superior safety conscious workforce that will improve injury prevention and WHS management outcomes for Walgett Shire Council and its staff. 

“Walgett Shire Council does not consider risk management as merely a compliance requirement, rather as an opportunity to strive for greater accountability and WHS excellence in the workplace.  

“This initiative enables the disconnect from the silo environment that sometimes exists between office based staff and outdoor workers, the outdoor staff feel very much engaged in the important WHS space”.

*Copy supplied by Walgett Shire Council