Make no mistake, safe workplaces matter
14 Mar 2018
Those in charge of an organisation have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace, to consult with workers, including volunteers, and to keep them informed about WHS matters. Employers who fail to manage health and safety in the workplace are in danger of fines, litigation and in severe cases, imprisonment. Worse still, they may find themselves responsible for injuries, illnesses or deaths.
No matter how big or small your organisation, the potential for accidents and injuries is ever-present. By committing to WHS you can reduce the risks and play your role in keeping your community safe.
Top five causes of workplace injuries
Regardless of what causes an injury, from seemingly innocuous accidents to the harmful acts of others, the underlining issue is almost always some failure of an organisation’s WHS management system (WHSMS).
Making sure you have a WHSMS, and that it’s regularly reviewed, is crucial for protecting your community, meeting legislative requirements, and reducing the chances of fines, litigation, and imprisonment.
Developing a WHS MS
A WHSMS provides a basic framework for effectively managing health and safety. It’s made up of a set of plans, actions and procedures.
It aims to:
- Provide a safe and healthy workplace and prevent or reduce the incidence of illness and injury
- Identify workplace hazards and assess and control risks
- Involve managers, supervisors, workers and their representatives in WHS matters
- Provide information and training so all workers can perform their duties safely, and
- Continuously improve safety standards through ongoing monitoring and reviews.
A number of factors are essential for a WHSMS to be effective. It must be supported by all other management systems. It must be adequately resourced. And, perhaps most important of all, senior leaders must commit to it.
The five stages of a WHS management system
The development of an effective WHSMS can be broken down into five stages, with each stage flowing into the next to create an ongoing cycle of monitoring and improvement.
1. Management commitment & policy
Develop a WHS policy that states how management aims to provide a safe workplace, including allocation of resources and responsibilities for implementation and communication of information.
Decide how you will meet the commitments you have made in the WHS policy and document this in a WHS management plan. This includes: setting objectives and targets, and establishing how you will measure and record your progress; selecting procedures for identifying, assessing and controlling hazards or risks; allocating resources and meeting legal and regulatory requirements.
3. Implementation & operation
Develop the capabilities necessary to achieve your objectives and implement the planned activities. This includes: establishing which roles have duties under WHS legislation and allocating responsibilities; deciding how and when you will communicate and consult with workers, and how you will report on and document your WHS activities, procedures and processes.
4. Measurement & evaluation
Develop systems and reporting processes to measure, monitor and evaluate WHS performance and determine how and when preventative or corrective action should be taken.
5. Management review
Develop a schedule and process for reviewing the WHSMS to ensure that it continues to meet your needs and achieves the objective of continual improvement.
The economic case
Safe Work Australia compiles national workers’ compensation statistics that, in part, reveal the economic realities of poor WHS. It estimates that workplace injuries cost Australian organisations around $60 billion a year. For 2015 – 2016, the median time lost per injury was 5.2 weeks, and the median compensation payout was $10,800.
On numbers alone, having an effective WHSMS is good business. When you factor in protecting your reputation as well as your workers, it’s a no-brainer. But safe workplaces are no accident. It’s up to you to make the commitment and take action. When you do, everyone wins.