Frequently Asked Questions

Competency in General

Yes. This is one of the real basics of any ‘Safe Systems of Work’
A person who has the necessary knowledge & skill to do a particular job.
Either by training or experience.

In most cases, experience is very difficult or impossible to back up in court; you may have rough knowledge & skill but not industry standard knowledge & skill. The best way is by proper training & assessment & have documentary proof of it.

Refers to a person who currently has the necessary knowledge & skill to do a particular job.

The PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) of the workplace has the responsibility to ensure all workers are currently competent. Different PCBUs require refresher training at different times and best practice can vary from 12 months (eg self contained breathing apparatus) to around 3  years (height & confined space). Some competency based training has  to be refreshed every so often by law eg 1st Aid every 3 years for a person to be currently competent.

A unit from a national training package giving the performance standards required in the workplace. They are regulated by the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

Student Learning Difficulties

Yes. VS&R trainers work with a variety of clients from all backgrounds. If you have trouble reading, writing or sitting exams we will work out a solution. We simply ask you let us know before arriving at your course. Please phone 0412 291 054.

Some possible solutions are:

  • Sending you pre course material
  • Staying later after normal training hours or
  • Other arranged time on a 1 to 1 basis with assessor reading & writing  for you (there is a charge for this)

Working at Height

Whenever there is a risk of a fall from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury to the person or any other person.

Note: there is no mention of a specific height before the PCBU needs to act: this is because the old 2m rule did not take into account what happened during the fall or at the end of the fall where serious & fatal injuries were still happening

What it means: the PCBU should do a risk assessment of the workplace wherever there is a change from one level to another and then eliminate or control the fall risk.

The PCBU should eliminate or control the 3 things that can fall:

  1. People
  2. Tools
  3. Materials
Use the height hierarchy of control, in order

  1. Work from the ground
  2. Work on a solid construction
  3. Use a fall protection device
  4. Use fall restraint
  5. Use fall arrest
  6. Use a ladder

plus step back, look at the whole situation and do a risk assessment in consultation, using authoritive information to help you.

Fall risks should be eliminated to the ‘lowest practicable level’

which is determined by:

  1. What you know, or ought to know, about the fall risks
  2. The probability of the fall occurring
  3. The consequence, if the fall occurred
  4. What you know, or ought to know, about best practice fall elimination & control methods
  5. The availability & suitably of fall elimination & control methods
  6. The cost of eliminating or controlling the fall risks is irrelevant unless hugely disproportional
Information that helps with the risk assessment. The main authoritive information for most things are the WHS Regulations, Codes of Practice & Australian Standards. See the Code of practice for ‘Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces

Other examples are:

  • SafeWork NSW safety alerts put on their website
  • manufacturers manuals
  • generic Safe Work Method Statements from industry bodies
  • consultation with competent people
  • your inspection of the height job
  • your previous experience
A competent person, in consultation, should identify all reasonably foreseeable hazards ‘whenever there is a risk of a fall from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury to the person or any other person’.

Then for each hazard, work out the probability of it occurring and the consequence of it occurring; that is the risk level of each fall hazard.

When assessing the risks arising from each fall hazard, the following should be considered:

  1. the design and layout of elevated work areas, including the distance of a potential fall
  2. the number and movement of all people at the workplace
  3. the proximity of workers to unsafe areas where loads are placed on elevated working areas (for example, loading docks) and where work is to be carried out above people and there is a risk of falling objects
  4. the adequacy of inspection and maintenance of plant and equipment (for example, scaffolding)
  5. the adequacy of lighting for clear vision
  6. weather conditions—the presence of rain, wind, extreme heat or cold can cause slippery or unstable conditions
  7. the suitability of footwear and clothing for the conditions
  8. the suitability and condition of ladders, including where and how they are being used
  9. the adequacy of current knowledge and training to perform the task safely (for example, young, new or inexperienced workers may be unfamiliar with a task)
  10. the adequacy of procedures for all potential emergency situations.

Your fall hazards will then come to be high, medium or low.

You then eliminate or control the fall risks to a low level, starting with the highest first

Confined Spaces

From the ‘Confined Space Code of Practice’,
‘a confined space’ means an enclosed or partially enclosed space that:

  • is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person; and
  • is, or is designed or intended to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while any person is in the space; and
  • is or is likely to be a risk to health and safety from:
    an atmosphere that does not have a safe oxygen level, or
  • contaminants, including airborne gases, vapours and dusts, that may cause injury from fire or explosion, or
  • harmful concentrations of any airborne contaminants, or

Common confined spaces are vats, tanks, pits, pipes, ducts, flues, chimneys, silos, containers, pressure vessels, underground sewers, wet or dry wells, shafts, trenches, tunnels or other similar enclosed or partially enclosed structures, when these examples meet the dot points above

What is not a confined space for the purposes of the WHS regulations?

A confined space does not include an underground mine, sand blasting or spray painting booths, because they are a normal place of work.

The following kinds of workplaces are also generally not confined spaces for the purposes of the WHS Act:

  • places that are intended for human occupancy and have adequate ventilation, lighting and safe means of entry and exit, such as offices and workshops
  • enclosed or partially enclosed spaces that are designed to be occasionally occupied by a person if the space has a readily and conveniently accessible means of entry and exit via a doorway at ground level, for example:
    • a cool store accessed by a LPG forklift to move stock – although the use of a LPG forklift in a cool store can be hazardous, the door at ground level means that once the alarm is raised, escape and rescue can happen quickly
    • b. a fumigated shipping container with a large ground level opening will facilitate easy escape and rescue.

Trenches are not considered confined spaces based on the risk of structural collapse alone, but will be confined spaces if they potentially contain concentrations of airborne contaminants that may cause impairment, loss of consciousness or asphyxiation.

There is some controversy in defining confined spaces; in the end, if the PCBU says it is, then it is a confined space; they have the final decision.

We provide industry experienced personnel to visit your site and identify and document your confined spaces. We also provide a confined space risk assessment service.

An enclosed or partially enclosed space, not designed primarily for human occupancy and have the risk of ONE of the following:

  • lack of oxygen or excess of oxygen,
  • presence of airborne toxic gases or vapours,
  • explosive environment
  • or the risk of engulfment in a stored free flowing solid, or rising level of liquid.

Remember “risk of” does not mean it has to be there, but in your evaluation of the space that at some time it could contain one of the listed risks
eg when riding a motor bike there is always a risk of having an accident.

Also you cannot put a “control measure” in place and then say, “it is not a confined space”. ie placing a ventilation fan in the space to provide a flow of fresh air.  You have to go back to the reason you put the fan in place, and that then becomes “the risk of”.

Yes. Many workplaces do not have a rescue plan though.

Everything is fine until an incident occurs.

A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must:

  • Establish first aid and rescue procedures
  • Ensure these procedures are practiced as necessary to ensure they will work.

If this is not done and there is an incident, but not a death, then:

Maximum penalty:
$30,000 for Organizations
$ 6,000 for Individuals

If there is a death the maximum penalties are:
Corporations $3,000,000
PCBU $600,000 / 5 years gaol
Workers $300,000

So before anyone enters a confined space, a rescue plan must be in place, and that plan must be rehearsed with all team members.

A confined space rescue follows the following steps:

  • Prepare for confined space rescue – have a plan, have the PPE and have the trained staff
  • Assess & manage the confined space rescue – all hazards & risks are identified, actual confined space features are assessed before deploying rescue team, rescue is managed to control access and safety & communication with others on site is established.
  • Determine location & condition of casualties
  • Gain entry to confined space – permit, gas testing, ventilation, appropriate respiratory protection
  • Locate, treat & evaluate casualty
  • Remove victims according to plan, scene preserved for investigation
  • Conclude rescue operations – all gear removed and cleaned
  • Debrief of incident signs & symptoms of operational stress are recognised and reported
  • Paperwork is completed.


No – there is no definite expiry period like a forklift licence.

It is up to the PCBU of the site to establish a renewal date based on the requirement to have each chainsaw operator currently competent. Current industry recommended renewal time is 3 years.

3 in one helmet (hard hat, ear muffs, visor –we can supply)

Chain saw trousers or chaps (we can supply)

Lace up steel caps for accredited courses (you supply)

Simple definition; a small, round, sound, straight tree at least 100mm diameter, 4m tall with diameter less than bar length, low complexity overall to assess and fall.
Diameter can be wider than bar, lean and weight so that it can be felled with wedges and hingewood control in your desired direction, may have visible dead or broken material in the crown , limited defects overall but can include free splitting species and medium complexity terrain.
Both basic and intermediate which then covers most tree falling, but not advanced trees.
This the forest industry standard –gives much more support to your feet and ankle in the uneven tree environment – can be bought with a zipper on the side for quick removal if desired.