compensation claims

There’s no excuse to not know about safety

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat.

 

What on earth does that mean, you ask? Well, this is the legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because they were unaware of its content.

 

So, this is the interesting thing about occupational health and safety. From a legal perspective, business owners and senior managers really do need to know about safety and that there’s really no excuse not to know.

 

What we know from experience working with countless businesses is that if safety is not your area of expertise, the whole concept often seems an incredible hassle. It’s so hard to figure out what to do about health and safety – especially for many small and medium sized businesses where you don’t have the luxury of hiring a specific person to fulfill this role.

 

But the fact remains that if you are a senior manager within any business, you really do need to know what your role is – in other words you must make sure that the people in your workplace are safe and healthy, and that the operations of your workplace do not impact the health and safety of people.

 

 

One case that is well known amongst safety professionals is one involving Owens Group. The CEO – who was based in New Zealand – oversaw 30 companies including Owens Container Services. Following an incident in Australia, the CEO was prosecuted for not appropriately managing workplace hazards that resulted in a fatality. His claim that he was working remotely, and that he had a team to manage safety meaning that he was not able to ‘influence the conduct of the business’ was simply not suitable. The CEO was found guilty. Read more about the case here.

 

From this example, it can clearly be seen that simply because a senior manager doesn’t have a hands-on role in operations does not mean they are absolved of the health and safety obligations. Senior management have the authority to seek the implementation of health and safety policies, and therefore should do so.

 

So, if anything unfortunate was to go wrong in your workplace, in the eyes of the law, you must be found to have taken all reasonable steps to best manage and mitigate the health and safety risks on behalf of your workers. The legislation has been in place for years, and supporting information every business owner needs to know is readily available. So, this means that the excuse of “I didn’t realise” doesn’t quite cut it. You’ll discover quite quickly that you ought to have known.

 

To help you out, here are three easy ways to learn more about your health and safety responsibilities, right now:

 

  1. Visit the Safe Work Australia website – it has a simple layout, search fields to help you find what you are looking for, and all the information you could possibly need is available there.
  2. Contact your state regulator. If you are not sure who this is follow this link. Visit their websites or call to find out more. Some of them even have industry-specific advice to give straight off the bat.
  3. Engage a consulting firm. Sometimes there can be a lot of jargon and complexity around what you need to do. So, cut straight to it and bring some professionals on board to guide you.

 

And like we always say – it’s not all doom and gloom! Safety doesn’t have to be hard to manage! Read up on our 3 C’s of effective health and safety management or our 5 easy things every workplace can do to manage foreseeable safety hazards blogs to make some quick and easy changes right now! Most importantly, try to ‘stack’ safety habits into already existing practices. For tips on how to do this, read our blog Try ‘stacking’ your habits… to prevent safety from falling over.

 

 

Otherwise, contact us to learn more about how Safety Champion can help. Safety Champion isn’t just software to manage an already established safety plan (like all of the others). Safety Champion gives you all the tools, manuals and professional health and safety advice you need, to suit the specific needs of your business.

 

5 easy things every workplace can do to manage foreseeable safety hazards

It might seem extremely obvious, but maintaining a clean and clutter free workplace is one of the simplest things you can do to look out for the health and safety of your workers. Slips, trips and falls are more prevalent than you think, contributing to more than 23%[1] of workplace compensation claims in Australia.

 

“Almost every time I enter a workplace for a consultation, I can immediately see several hazards that could very easily be avoided. All it takes is a moment to stop and look around to see what they might be.”

– Ryan Baldwin, Junior OHS Consultant

 

So, what do you need to do? Well, see if you can easily sort some or all of these 5 things out:

 

  1. Clutter – Is there anything obviously messy and untidy? Perhaps piled up boxes of files by your desk or unnecessary items in walkways. Think about ways you can properly store important items that people need to access… otherwise move them into storage.
  2. Slippery Floors – Look for wet areas, then identify a way to keep it dry!

 

Potential HazardPotential Solution
Excess water at the entry to your office on wet daysAt entrances, on wet days, consider umbrella bins or bags. If placing down mats, make sure that these don’t become a trip hazard!
Excess water in kitchen and bathroom areas due to spillsHave a conversation with workers to understand the cause. It may be as simple as there is no drying rack or tea towel. Avoid just “hanging” signs like “Keep Dry” –before understanding the cause.
Leaks where chemicals are storedStore chemicals on trays or in containers, so any leaks are contained.

 

  1. Cables and cords – Ensure that your electrical cords are properly secured and covered to avoid trips and other electrical hazards. This can be done using tape and/or velco covers.
  2. Open Drawers – Empty out those draws so that you can close them! Filing cabinets that are overly full from the top, may actually tip over when opened, due to the weight of the contents.
  3. Hygiene – Again, it might seem obvious but colds and flus can spread easily in workplaces. So, make sure the hand soap is filled up in the bathrooms and kitchens or supply hand sanitizer to prevent these bugs from spreading. Make sure the office and computer equipment is kept clean.

 

That’s it for now. These might seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many issues you will avoid by managing the simple things.

 

Be aware though that this is not an extensive list. You really need to routinely take some time out to review your workplace and think about how you can better protect the health and safety of your workers. If this means writing a list of routine tasks that need to be completed – then make that list or, even better, think about establishing a safety management system!

 

 

By the way, if closing out the tasks from your ‘routine list of health and safety tasks’ becomes a problem, then perhaps a cloud-based solution like Safety Champion may be something for you to consider. Take a product tour today.

 

[1] Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2014–15 (revised July 2017)

How you can identify the common injury hotspots in your industry?

One of the most difficult parts of business is managing your legal OHS and WHS obligations. Your business has responsibilities to both know and manage the ‘common’ health and safety hazards that are specific to your industry. But this means that you need to be proactive in identifying foreseeable hazards. It is only when you identify what could go wrong that you can actually prevent nasty things from occurring by planning and implementing strategies to avoid them.

 

For example, in the retail sector repetitive work, excessive carrying and lifting, or awkward postures are common causes of back and shoulder injuries. But, businesses must first know that poor manual handling practices like these commonly lead to injury, before they can develop strategies to manage the risk. So how do you know what is ‘foreseeable’ when you are not exactly an occupational health and safety expert?

 

Free safety promotion poster set for your workplace. Download now.

“I’m no OHS expert, how do I know what the ‘common’ OHS hazards are in my industry?”

 

Well, we are glad you asked! WorkSafe Victoria has this fantastic, freely available online tool that will tell you exactly which health and safety risks you should look out for in your workplace. They have even provided some great practical solutions for mitigating these risks. And some of these are so easy you can start implementing them today.

 

 

It’s called Injury Hotspots. Just type in your industry and then click on the body parts to read about common hazards and the practical solutions that you can adopt to avoid these hazards from occurring. The site also gives you links to all the official health and safety legislation documentation that you might need to learn more.

 

Now we think this is an incredibly useful tool for any business owner or team manager who is responsible for protecting the health and safety of their workers. So, why not jump online today and explore more about what you should be looking out for?

 

After you’ve learned a little more about the hazards in your industry, now you are ready to implement strategies to mitigate the risks. Read more about how to develop and achieve your health and safety targets and objectives. In addition, contact us to learn more about how our software can help your business keep managing OHS in your business nice and simple.

Tips for safer manual handling practices in your workplace

Think about the last time you lifted an object that was heavier or more awkward than you realised.

 

You might feel pretty sure that you didn’t injure yourself when you moved it, but don’t let this fool you. Actually, incorrect lifting practices can lead to chronic or ongoing problems whether you feel it at the time or not.

 

From a health and safety perspective in the workplace, this is an important consideration for employers and managers. It means that not only may you be liable for any immediate injuries to your workers caused by poor manual handling practices, but also the oftentimes ‘hidden’ injuries that may be sustained over time.

 

Get your free manual handling safety promotion poster

 

 

The reality is that it is more than common that manual handling – any activity that requires effort to lift, move, push, pull, carry, hold or restrain any object – isn’t managed as well as it could be in most workplaces.

 

 

Body stressing and manual handling accounts for 40% of all workers compensation claims with an average cost per case of AUD$115,780.

 

 

Industries like the retail sector – where associated risks and hazards are higher due to the nature of the business – need to be particularly aware. Workers regularly lift and move stock around from storeroom to display to customers, increasing risks.

 

 

What don’t you know about manual handling?

 

Whilst most managers and workers understand safe lifting principles like “bend you knees” and “keep your back straight,” effective management of manual handling in the workplace extends past this.

 

It is also about the layout of your display and storeroom spaces. It’s about using the best operational practices possible to reduce the risks. And it’s also about encouraging all lifting to happen with the low risk zone (see the picture below).

 

Here are two simple things to consider to assist you in reducing the risks and hazards to your workers;

 

Weight of the products.

Lighter items should be placed on higher shelves. Heavier items should be placed on shelves between shoulder and mid-thigh height, ideally at waist height.

This said, regularly accessed items should be stored, shoulder and mid-thigh height, with infrequently accessed stock outside of this zone.

 

Height of the products.

When unpacking stock from boxes, identify ways that this can be done at hip height. To enable easy reach, products on the top shelves should not be stacked on top of each other.

Change the size or weight of packaging by breaking down large loads into smaller ones, and finding out if stock is available in smaller sizes. Smaller loads can be lifted and handled more easily.

safety champion software advice for better manual handling practices in the workplace

 

 

How to start with better practices today

So, you can see that ensuring of the health and safety of your workers with regard to lifting and moving stock around doesn’t have to be overly complex. It can be as simple as reorganising your spaces, providing trolleys or step ladders to help, or even just considering how you can reduce double or triple handling of stock on a day-to-day basis.

 

Maybe start by getting your team together to discuss how you can create the safest manual handling practices in your workplace.

 

Remember that it’s your workers who will likely be the first to notice any difficulties, and they are probably the ones to have some great ideas for how you can improve procedures and tasks to support a healthy and safe workplace for all.

 

 

Learn about our free software to help you manage safety better.

 

 

If you would like some help about holding an internal meeting to discuss manual handling at your workplace, here’s a handy Manual Handling Toolbox Talk to help you out. To learn more about what you can do, here’s the Code of Practice: Hazardous Manual Tasks to guide you.