Don’t wait for the storm to pass, dance in the rain
Many businesses delay initialising their Health and Safety Management System for a number of reasons. Some of the commons ones we hear about every day are:
- We don’t know where to start – I will look into it later.
- We are too busy right now (sometimes incredibly busy) – so, our workers need to focus on our operations.
- We don’t have the budget right now – let’s wait until the next financial year.
- We are approaching a ‘blackout period’ – our workers need to focus on business themes.
So, why is delaying such an issue? Well, it’s an issue because all businesses have a legislated health and safety duty to provide a safe workplace. And, yes, this means right now, not later, not when you have the budget available, and not when you have time to finally turn your attention to health and safety.
Delaying the implementation of your Safety Management System or not ensuring that your workplace is inherently safe for your employees, is a breach of your business’ explicitly legislated health and safety duty ‘to provide a safe workplace’. No matter how hard it is ‘to provide a safe workplace’, and no matter what your business’ current operational focuses are – your business can’t wait for the storm to pass. Implementation of your Safety Management System and safety practices must start now!
To dance in the rain, health and safety needs to be part of the way that your business operates.
Given that the management of workplace health and safety is a legislative requirement, it follows that non-compliance can result in prosecution. Health and safety prosecution can be issued against: the business, the business’ management or the business’ workers, for breaches of the legislation. Maximum penalties for breaches of the health and safety legislation (as at July 2016) in Australia are:
- Corporation / Business: $3,000,000;
- Officer (i.e. Owner/Executive Manger/Senior Manager): $600,000 & 5 years jail;
- Workers and other persons $300,000 & 5 years jail.
So, now might be the right time to learn to dance in the rain and move ahead with your workplace health and safety management after all.
To make your health and safety management successful, it must be a prominent part of the way that your business operates. If health and safety is considered an ‘add-on’ to your operations, then safety will likely be an afterthought for your staff and your business’ safety culture will probably be low. The obvious danger with this is that the health and safety of your employees and workplace visitors is not actually protected all that well. And this is what it is all about.
To build health and safety into the core operations of your business, consider the following ideas:
- Operational meetings and toolbox meetings. Add an item to your agenda that allows your staff to bring attention to hazards in the workplace or raises other health and safety issues for discussion.
- Audit programs. If your workplace conducts business audits, like financial or stocktake audits, add a handful of ‘health and safety’ criteria into the mix.
- Procurement processes. Why not manage the risks before purchasing plant or equipment? This will also save your business money by reducing the cost of retrofitting controls in the future.
- Contractor engagement and management processes. Before employing new staff, you undoubtedly ensure that your candidate is competent, has experience, and fits your business culture, right? So, why wouldn’t you do the same with your contractors?
- Workplace design. Similar to procurement of equipment, pre-plan a little. Consider future operational growth, the requirements outlined within the health and safety standard, and optimising workflows. Just because it is the way you do it now, does not mean it’s the most efficient way or that it will be right in the future. With big change, comes big opportunity.
This is not an exhaustive list, however, it provides a few simple initiatives you can implement now to improve health and safety management within your business’ operations.
A “For Dummies” guide on what are Safety Management Systems can be found by following the link. In addition, to support effective implementation, you may want to review the following blogs we have previously posted What are Health and Safety Procedures for information on safety processes you should look to establish in your workplace, and/or Why You Should Transition your Safety Management System to an Online Safety Software System to review options you should consider regarding implementation.
An effective way to start the safety dance is for management to start asking questions and initiating health and safety into conversations across your business.
Now is the time to get the music started! If you need help choosing your song, please contact us. We would love to guide you on simple ways to energise your Safety Management System.