In manufacturing, as in other industries, you should not underestimate the role a supervisor plays in establishing, implementing and overseeing systems that govern health and safety. The supervisor forms the vital link between the strategic direction established by senior management and the body of the organisation; the workers. The decisions supervisors make, and leadership skills they demonstrate, influence not only their direct area of responsibility but the business as a whole.

In this article we will examine the legislative responsibilities imposed on supervisors, the level of managerial support required and training required for supervisors to discharge these responsibilities effectively.


  1. You must take reasonable care for your own health and safety.

IMPORTANT: ‘Reasonable care’ is the degree of caution and concern for health and safety that an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the circumstances.

A supervisor in a manufacturing environment must have sound knowledge of the hazards within their area of responsibility.

  1. You must take reasonable care that your acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.

IMPORTANT: An act is an action by a person. The act (i.e. a direction or instruction from a supervisor to another person such as a worker) must not adversely affect that worker’s health and safety. An omission is a failure to perform an act agreed to.


A supervisor must not instruct a worker to operate machinery with the knowledge that a guard has been bypassed or removed.

  1. You must comply, so far as you are reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction that is given by your employer to allow the employer to comply with its health and safety duties.

IMPORTANT: A ‘reasonable instruction’ is a directive issued by an employer. Whether such an instruction is reasonable will depend on the circumstances. However, in the event that a supervisor is given an instruction to complete a safety inspection of their work area on the factory floor, their refusal or failure to do so may constitute a failure to follow a reasonable instruction.

  1. You must cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure as developed by your employer that relates to health or safety at the workplace and which has been notified to workers.

 IMPORTANT: A supervisor is required to cooperate and follow policies, procedures, safe operating procedures and any other related safety instructions established by their employer within the manufacturing environment.


If an isolation procedure has been established in relation to a piece of plant or machinery, the supervisor and workers have a duty to cooperate with the implementation of such a procedure. The supervisor also has a duty to provide oversight on the effectiveness of such implementation.

CAUTION:  A breach of a lawful and reasonable direction is serious misconduct under the Fair Work Act 2009 and its Regulations.


Support from operational and executive management is vital in assisting a supervisor to discharge their responsibilities effectively. Operational and executive management must meet with their supervisors on a regular basis to debrief on the close out of priority risk items referenced on the site risk register.

Operational and executive management must also ‘walk the floor’ to show their presence and interest in established site safety strategies, engaging on a regular basis with workers and supervisors.

A supervisor can be an exceptional asset due to the significant impact they can have on workplace culture, but they also have limitations. For example, a supervisor cannot access significant capital for machinery-guarding solutions, physical isolation systems, non-entry rescue systems for confined space rescue, etc. A supervisor relies on the support and ‘hands-on’ input of their operational and executive management teams.


Key training that must be considered for supervisors should include the following learning outcomes:

  1. A basic understanding of the jurisdiction-specific health and safety legislation (including the relevant Act, Regulations, Codes of Compliance/Codes of Practice, Australian Standards, Guidance Material).
  2. An understanding of the role of a supervisor and assistance other key parties (that is, operational and executive management teams) can provide.
  3. An understanding of the health and safety responsibilities and legal duties of a supervisor.
  4. An understanding of the structure and practical application of a health and safety management system in the manufacturing warehouse within the organisation.
  5. An understanding of the application of the hazard management process using practical case studies.
  6. An understanding of how to determine, implement and monitor health and safety control measures, including legal duties imposed by the legislation.
  7. An understanding of where and how to obtain assistance in dealing with hazards and dangerous situations.
  8. An understanding of the role of health and safety in the workplace in the prevention of incidents, injury and illness.
  9. An understanding of how the skills of consultation, active listening, issue resolution may be used by a supervisor.

An understanding of the importance of providing information, instruction, training, support and supervision to all workers.

REMEMBER: You must set retraining intervals, on an annual basis at a minimum, to refresh skills learnt by such training.

In closing, a manufacturing supervisor inevitably has to balance the conflicting responsibilities of production and safety. The missing thread is that profitable production is safe production. As, the role of the Executive and Operational management teams is to lead, support and drive the message through the supervisor of safe production is vital to the success of any safety initiative in the manufacturing industry.

Contact us at SafeT Now Consulting on 0487 700 898 to discuss this in further detail.


Looking for a safety consultant for your project?

Get in touch to discuss how we can be of assistance

Get in touch

600 Congress Ave
Flor 14 Blog C,
Austin,Tx 78965

09876 768 66
09875 788 889

Say Hello.