Author: MHR Senior HR/IR Manager Christine Jones
Let’s make WorkSafe simple.
We’ve covered What is WorkSafe and how does it relate to your business? So now we’ll move on to:
Is your workplace safe?
So, how do you know if you’re providing a safe environment for your workers?
1. Do your own inspection of the workplace to identify hazards and potential hazards.
2. Be aware that not all risks are physical – mental health is just as important.
3. Fix the fixable.
A really good resource is the WorkSafe OHS Essentials Program – not everyone will qualify, but you should check out Useful links at the end of this article to see if your organisation fits the criteria.
In a nutshell, a consultant visits your workplace and, working with you, identifies hazards and creates a practical safety action plan. It also includes a follow-up visit to see how you’re going.
But if you are doing it using your own resources the first step is to Find the Hazards – that is find anything with the potential to cause harm. Some will be easily identified because they are common to your business, but others will be less obvious.
It’s all about consultation with your workforce and being proactive. Talk to your employees and seek their input into the process; look at the tasks they perform and assess them for potential hazards. Record everything, so that you are building a reference tool.
Also, be mindful of the generic hazards that all workplaces seem to live with – like all those leads and cables that keep our computer-aided electronic lives buzzing. You have a meeting and hook up a data-projector or provide power for everyone’s tablets and within minutes you have a spaghetti junction of cabling. This is a common and very serious hazard. We seem to accept it, but you ignore it at your peril. Be organised – make sure everyone has secured their cabling and you have eliminated the ‘trip hazard’.
There’s the endless cups of coffee that we all seem to consume and put on our desks in both china and takeaway containers. How many times do we hear a cry of expletives as someone ends up with it in their lap or all over their workstation? I can hear the chorus of 'that’s something each of us should be responsible for', and you’re right, but as an employer you have the responsibility of making your workforce aware of that situation. As you do with all the other obvious hazards within the workplace.
You want to move your desk closer to the window, or move a piece of equipment into a more manageable position. Don’t do it on your own. Don’t try to lift or move heavy objects without first assessing the situation and getting assistance. You don’t need a back injury from incorrectly lifting/carrying; you don’t need a foot injury from dropping something on it because it was too heavy to hold onto anymore. Too often we try to do things ourselves when a little knowledge and help would go a long way.
Mental health issues are a significant potential hazard. Your employees need their mental wellbeing looked after just as much as their physical wellbeing. As an employer you must make sure that there is no bullying or harassment in any form of any staff member. You also need to be mindful that we all need to feel that we have achieved, and if the volume of work is too much to ever be completed or it is beyond the capabilities of the person undertaking the task, this can lead to feeling anxious or stressed. It’s up to you to monitor and recognise that situation, and fix it.
After you have created the list of possible hazards you need to rank them. There will be some things that may cause bruises and scrapes, but there could also be life endangering hazards, and those are the ones you address first.
Now you have to Fix the Hazards.
Many things are simple fixes and are often just a matter of removing a trip, bump or slip hazard; like securing cabling with Velcro covers to carpet; making sure that workers walk don’t run.
For those big items that have the potential to be life-altering the obvious answer is to completely remove or securely contain the hazard.
Your workers are a valuable asset and you don’t want to lose someone, either temporarily or permanently, through an unsafe workplace.
Employer obligation – by law employers are responsible for controlling all potential safety hazards and providing a safe workplace.
On your Radar:
· Consultation – create an open forum where everyone has the opportunity to contribute
· Assessment – take a good look at your workplace and record everything, whether just a possible hazard or a definite and obvious hazard
· Fix it – work out a priority list and get motoring – do it now!
Some useful links:
General information: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au
Do your own inspection page: http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/pages/safety-and-prevention/workplace-inspections/do-your-own-inspection
For Victorian small businesses with limited OHS information and knowledge and less than 20 employees or $1m in remuneration, you can also register for the WorkSafe OHS Essentials Program: http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/pages/safety-and-prevention/small-business/worksafe-ohs-essentials-program