Workplace health and safety importance

workplace health and safety australia

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Safety in the Workplace Importance

Creating and implementing a workplace health and safety program is one of the best decisions an organisation can make. This not only benefits the employees but also leads to the realisation of the organisation’s bottom line. In this post, we delve deeper into what a safe workplace is and why it is important.

Defining a Safe Workplace

Safety in the workplace refers to the assessment and mitigation of risks or hazards which could impact the safety, health or welfare of the people at your workplace. This may include employees, contractors, visitors, clients, suppliers, and volunteers. In Australia, safety in the workplace is governed by laws laid down by Safe Work Australia.

This and other workplace safety regulating bodies require every organisation to meet certain standards in their workplaces. While these may vary occupation to occupation, the primary goal is to prevent employee injuries and deaths. A safe workplace is realised through a multi-faceted approach which involves training, implementation of safe work practices and regular workplace inspections.

Why Is A Safe Workplace Important?

Work-related injuries, ailments and deaths are costly to all the parties involved. Safe Work Australia estimates that in 2017 a total of 190 workers were fatally injured while working. The fatality rate for the year was 1.5 for every 100,000 workers. 72% of the fatalities were from the transport, agriculture, and construction industries.

  • It reduces the rate of absenteeism and employee turnover

According to a recent news article, absenteeism robs the Australian economy more than $44 billion every year. Whether employees skip coming to work for personal reasons or due to workplace accidents, managers have to make do with a lower number of people. An organisation that prioritises on workplace health and safety can minimise the number of on-the-job accidents and injuries, thus reducing employee absenteeism associated with such.

  • It helps you avoid severe consequences

Should you not provide a safe working environment, your employees have a right to refuse to work until their safety issues are resolved. Should you fail to fix these issues, employees can go ahead and report you to the relevant authorities. This could lead to hefty penalties, litigation, or even closure of your establishment. This makes it necessary to carry out health and safety audits regularly.

  • It helps your organisation cut down on insurance claims

According to Australian laws, workers who are injured at work are entitled to compensation. The Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics reports that there were a total of 106,260 compensation claims in 2016-17. The average amount paid out to a serious injury claim was $11,500. Insurance claims only dent your organisation’s bottom line. Therefore, avoid them by implementing safe work practices.

  • It enhances job satisfaction

When you make workplace health and safety part of the operational strategy and budget safety improvements, you earn your employees’ trust. By involving them in the organisation’s health and safety decisions by creating safety committees, constant reporting and holding safety meetings and forums, you show them that their opinions matter. When you follow through on their opinions by implementing safe work policies, you prove that their well-being matters to you. Your employees will respond be becoming productive, loyal and mentally healthy.

  • It helps your enterprise protect its most valued asset – its employees

Workers are the primary intangible assets in any organisation. In the constantly evolving business world, it is your employees who differentiate you from the competition. While you could replace an employee who chooses to leave your organisation, you will never be able to replace their unique skill-set and knowledge. By implementing health and safety practices and policies, you protect your most valued asset.

  • It boosts your corporate reputation

If you consider workplace safety in terms of how it will affect your employees and yourself, you are missing out on a critical factor: your customers. Customers perceive an organisation that promotes a healthy workplace as being socially responsible. A positive brand reputation leads to increased profitability.

How To Create A Safe Workplace

Building and maintaining– a healthy and safe workplace should be a priority for any organisation. Under Safe Work Australia, employers and managers must create and maintain a healthy and safe working environment. However, putting up several posters and organising a few training sessions every once in a while is not enough. 

Organisations need to cultivate and uphold a strong safety culture throughout with the aim that safety becomes part of its ingrained culture. This implies not just making safety one of its primary values, but it also means taking solid steps towards it and constantly improving safety policies.

Here below are six steps towards creating and promoting a safety culture in your organisation.

Identify, evaluate, and control any potential hazards:

Failure to pinpoint potential risks and hazards frequently leads to injuries or even fatalities at the workplace. All health and safety programs should consistently identify and evaluate workplace risks to ensure that they come up with risks mitigating procedures. The risk identification process needs to be done through the collaborative efforts of the employers and the employees through the following step-by-step process:-

  • Gather all information about any existing or potential hazards. Depending on the nature of your business, these hazards can be physical, biological, chemical, ergonomic and task organisation. Remember to consider whether hazards that might exist in non-routine jobs
  • Carry out regular workplace walk-throughs to assess whether there are new hazards
  • Review any incidents, accidents or near misses logs to investigate their root cause
  • Find out whether there are any similar trends across these incidents or accidents
  • Determine the risk degree, its significance and the frequency of its occurrence. This helps you prioritise on what hazards you should mitigate first

Always encourage your employees to identify and report any potential risks and safety violations. Also, empower them to take immediate steps to resolve these issues.

Ensure that all employees go through continuous safety training

An organisation must train all its employees on all health and safety matters in a language they can easily understand. New workers should undergo health and safety inductions while existing employees need to go through refresher courses. Employees who change jobs within the organisation need to be re-trained. Using electronic message boards with bite-sized messages helps reinforce safety training and remind employees of the key points.

Make sure that employees have the appropriate equipment

To maintain a safe working environment, employees need to have access to the right equipment as well as the know-how on how to use them safely. You need to ensure that you properly maintain the equipment. Use digital signage to emphasise injury prevention procedures. Also, raise awareness on how to properly handle hazardous materials.

Put up signs and other visual safety aids

Use signs, labels, colour codes, and posters to warn employees of probable hazards. Digital signage helps you broadcast pertinent safety updates, messages and information in real life. Unlike static posters, digital signage proves extremely helpful in emergencies. For example, you can instantly notify or warn employees of an emergency even in areas where computers or mobile phones are not permitted.

Set up a safety committee

Come up with a workplace safety committee which should be made up of employees from the different departments. Consider including top executives as well as employees in the lowest hierarchy. The safety committee needs to meet regularly and come up with a report on such issues as; injury and fatality statistics, workplace safety inspection, current safety topics and other safety issues.

Likewise, hold regular departmental or company-wide health and safety meetings. This allows you to solicit feedback from each person in your organisation. Getting regular feedback opens your eyes to hazards that might have gone unnoticed. It also lets you know what safety issues or challenges your employees are facing. Ultimately, this makes them feel that their input is valued, which improves their productivity and mental health.

Make health and safety in your workplace fun

While health and safety at the workplace should not be taken lightly, one effective approach of making sure it becomes your organisation’s culture is through making it fun. Use resources such as digital signage to create quizzes or trivia whose theme is safety. Come up with engaging videos of safety rules as well as dos and don’ts. Set up friendly safety competitions which should include prizes, incentives or even company-wide recognition. By spicing up your safety practices with a little fun, chances are high that the employees will stay engaged and retain the information they learn.

How Induct For Work Can Help Create A Safe Workplace

Induct for Work is an online solution which has enabled multiple organisations cost-effectively train new and existing workers. Through using this online induction and training tool, companies have been able to overcome such challenges as:-

  • Time pressure – oftentimes, managers and team leaders are too busy to adequately orient new workers during their initial days or properly train existing workers. This causes inductions and training sessions to be rushed, summarised or even ignored. When using an e-learning platform, you only need to set up the course content and send an invite link to your trainees.
  • Inconsistent and mixed messages – inevitably the content in your induction material or training gets altered with every other instructor. With a credible e-learning platform, the message remains the same unless you update it.
  • Information overload – conventional induction methods require new employees to undergo face-to-face training during their first few days. If the volume of the information they are supposed to take in is too much, they will not absorb vital induction messages or retain them. Induct for Work enables your trainees to undertake a training or induction course at their own pace. You can even invite potential employees to take part in an induction course way before they set foot in your business premises. You can gauge their comprehension level by setting up quizzes throughout the course.

Through online induction and training, you will be in a better position to ensure your organisation stays compliant to the stipulated health and safety regulations. This is because Induct for Work has updated training templates that are relevant to your industry. The law requires you to keep accurate records of all your health and safety inductions and training. The platform keeps a soft copy of everyone who takes part in your induction program or health and safety training. Once inductees or trainees complete the course, they are issued with an induction card or a training certificate.

Using an online induction program gives you the power to use such things as videos, audio recordings, slides, and so on to make the content as engaging as possible. This enables trainees to absorb as much information as possible and retain it. Besides, it puts the learner in control of their learning process.

It also helps you stay on top of any contractor certifications, insurance documents, employee permits and any other compliance documents. You will receive notifications should such documents are due for renewal. This helps keep your organisation compliant.

Online induction and training come in handy for organisations with multiple branches. Your organisation does not have to incur the cost of ferrying employees to a central place where they can get their health and safety training. Rather, everyone can undertake the training no matter the location. Training courses can be accessed through mobile devices, laptops, or even desktops.

Induct for Work allows you to customise the health and safety training for specific groups of people within your organisation. For instance, you could develop safety training for your contractors, another one for permanent employees, and another one for casuals under one platform.

Final Thoughts

Workplace safety policies and procedures are important to any organisation because they:

  • Demonstrates that the organisation is addressing the safety regulations stipulated by the law.
  • Clarifies the functions and responsibilities of your organisation
  • Demonstrates the organisation’s commitment towards creating and maintaining the recommended health and safety standards
  • It ensures that health and safety processes, policies and procedures are recorded, communicated, and implemented consistently throughout the organisation
  • It helps managers effectively manage the employees as it differentiates acceptable behaviour in the workplace from what is unacceptable
  • It saves time as it allows for the quick resolving of health and safety issues through an already existing and recorded procedure. This helps organisations stay proactive rather than reactive.

The most effective way of conveniently disseminating health and safety information and training in any organisation is through online training. Begin your journey towards creating a healthy and safe environment by registering for a free trial at Induct for Work.