employer responsibility

The [very real] value of an effective incident reporting system

Any safety professional or scholar will tell you one of the core components of an effective safety management system is taking on a participatory approach[1]. Why is this so important? Because it’s your workers themselves who will likely be coming across safety hazards and risks in your workplace as they go about their day-to-day work. And since they are the ones you’re liable to protect from harm, it’s a good idea to hear what they have to say, and to encourage them to actively participate in your safety management system.

 

One important way your people can and should participate in your safety management system is through the regular and accurate reporting of incidents. This includes everything from ‘near miss’ incidents – read our blog on what those are here if you are unsure – through to the more serious incidents that we all wish never happened.

 

Isn’t it a bad thing if my staff are reporting incidents?

You may think it’s a negative thing to encourage your people to report incidents regularly. And you may worry that having many reported incidents may reflect poorly on your business. But – trust us – encouraging regular incident reporting is in fact a very, very good thing.

 

This is because effective incident reporting processes will ensure that you receive very real, relevant and valuable data – specific to your workplace – about the hazards that have the potential to cause harm to your workers, and any visitors to your workplace. And this data can be used to help you know what to focus on when it comes to making your workplace safer. Which is exactly what you are tasked to do under the health and safety legislation. Plus, having a solid and demonstrable incident reporting system or process in place is also a requirement of the legislation.

 

There is real value in having an effective incident reporting system that all of your staff can actively participate in. Data from the incident reports will guide you to the hazards are that you should be addressing, and advise if current controls you have in place might be falling short in effectively reducing risks. It will inform you of the real operational hazards, rather than the ‘hazards as imagined’ in the office.

 

What about my legal requirements with incident reporting?

And legally speaking, it is a requirement for you to have an incident reporting system to collect and collate your incident data, so that you can identify trends over time. This becomes powerful when you can start to dive into what’s really going on in specific work areas or departments within your business; age- or work-history profiles of you workers; or root causes.

 

This kind of data analysis and reporting will actually help you step back from the management and investigation of single incidents and see the bigger picture. And it’s this bigger picture that can help guide your whole safety management system towards reducing the number of incidents, reducing the severity of incidents, and boosting the overall impact of your safety management system. It can support the procurement of new equipment, or ensure procedures are review more meaningfully.

 

 

Needless to say, Safety Champion Software can assist you with both an easy-to-use and customisable incident reporting form that everyone in your business can use, and powerful reporting so that you can gain insights from incident reporting trends. Take photos when reporting on your phone at the incident site and upload attachments at will.

 

Contact us if you would like to hear more or check out our incident reporting module. We have developed our incident reporting module so that you can customise your own questions and response fields, so you won’t need to give up on that content that is super specific and important to you.

 


 

[1] Gallagher, C, Underhill, E & Rimmer, M 2003, ‘Occupational safety and health management systems in Australia: barriers to success’, Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 67-81.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels – Thanks!

Safety just won’t happen without effective leadership

Some have argued that leadership may be almost the single most powerful component of workplace culture[1]. Therefore, it follows that effective leadership is also important for safety practices to function at their best. We’ve found this to be pretty bang on. Our consultants often find that a poor workplace culture and poor safety performance, usually goes hand-in-hand with poor leadership.

 

While, this may be obvious to some – it isn’t to all. Often it can be organisational leaders themselves who are not acutely aware of their pivotal role in developing the workplace culture that promotes a safe work environment. So, if you’re a leader and thinking “Geez, I gotta get onto this” – or if you play a bit of an influential role with the leaders in your workplace – read on to learn how leaders can better promote a stronger safety culture.

 

 

Just why is leadership so important in building a strong safety culture?

 

Well, it’s the actions of leaders that set a personal example for desired workplace behaviour. Leaders can be very influential when they are seen by workers to follow and promote established safety rules, policies, procedures and standards.

 

Wise words from a safety guru:

 

“Top management must be committed to excellence and drive the agenda by establishing a vision, values and goals.”[2] James Meville Stewart, author of Managing for World Class Safety.

 

Wise words from one of our gurus:

 

“What interests my manager, fascinates me.” Craig Salter (most likely paraphrased from somewhere on the internet).

 

What do leaders need to succeed in building a strong safety culture?

 

  • Leaders must possess both the desire to act and a clear understanding of the specific behaviours that lead to excellent safety performance.
  • Leaders should focus on determining and then representing the values and behaviours required to strengthen workplace practices.
  • Leaders must not only say the right things, they must actively drive the development, implementation and enforcement of safety management systems to keep it moving.
  • Leaders should seek advice from safety professionals to guide and advise on an evidence-based approach to health and safety management, suited to their business.
  • Leaders should be involved in safety meetings and regularly include safety in their conversations and communications.

 

So if you are adopting the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to safety leadership – you are way off the mark. Chances are, you’re not developing a culture. Even if you are punishing those workers caught working outside “your rules” and even if they are appropriate controls in and of themselves, it simply won’t bring about the culture you are after you if you don’t adopt the rules yourself.

 

Put simply, if you don’t need to follow the rules, why should others?

 

 

As a leader, just how do you change safety culture for the better?

 

Whilst it is usually found that an organisation cannot change the core beliefs of the individuals within it, an organisational leader can certainly change the core culture of the collective. This is done by not only saying, but also doing. This is done by leaders adhering to the rules they lay out for everyone.

 

They must exemplify the change they wish to see in the workplace.

 

If in reading this, you are thinking “I need to do better” or that the leaders in your organisation need to do better, you’re probably right. Because, after all, all of us have the right to come to a workplace that protects our health and safety. The ignorance of leadership in your organisation may indeed be negatively affecting you, your colleagues and the leaders themselves.

 

 

And if you need a little help with implementing a health and safety management system to work alongside your strong safety leadership, contact us today!

 

[1] Simon, S.I. and R.A. Carrillo. Improving Safety Performance Through Cultural Interventions. In Safety Health & Asset Protection: Management Essentials, R.W. Lack, 2nd Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2002.

[2] Stewart, J.M. Managing for World Class Safety. New York. John Wiley & Sons, 2002.


The silly season is upon us…

Santa hats, party buses, free-flowing bubbly, finger food, high heels and party hats, end-of-year toasts, marquees, dance floors…

 

This time of year certainly is a lot of fun.

 

It’s the time we get to let our hair out with our colleagues, peers and mates to celebrate the year and look forward to the year ahead. But as a business, it’s important to know how you can keep your people safe during the silly season. After all, workplace health and safety responsibilities still apply at workplace-endorsed events. And businesses may even be liable for any employee injuries that occur before, during or after a workplace function.

 

So, here are some suggestions from us for keeping it safe, healthy and happy;

 

  • Think about possible things that could go wrong and come up with some ways you can mitigate the risk of them occurring. Examples are;
    • Uninvited and unwelcome guests could easily enter the venue if it’s a function room of a public bar, for example. So, getting security at the door could prevent this from happening.
    • Cuts from glassware might occur if there is a strong potential that they may be dropped. So can you provide plastic cup, cans or bottles?
    • If the event is being held outside or somewhere outside of your workplace, think about how first aid incidents be managed? Don’t limit yourself to injuries, could there be allergies? Take a first aid kit with you!
  • Let your people know what behaviour you expect. Formalise it. Send out an email, or bring it up in the next staff meeting. Talk about the disciplinary consequences that may take place if behaviour doesn’t align.
  • Clearly set out defined start and finish times for the event and ensure that these are stated on the invitation. Note that if a manager throws their card behind the bar at a different venue, so the party can continue, it is likely that this will be seen as a work-sanctioned event.
  • Ensure that your people can get safely to and from the venue. In some states, workers compensation obligations extend to the journey to and from work – in this case, ‘work’ is the company-endorsed event.
  • Consider restricting the amount of drinks, or the “strength” of drinks that are available. Always have non-alcoholic alternatives available. This could even be fun! Like offering a refreshing ‘company-branded’ mocktail part-way through the event.
  • A meal or finger food can slow down alcohol consumption, so ensure you have enough! Nobody enjoys an event when the food runs out early either.

 

And we wouldn’t be good safety people if we didn’t also suggest you have a bit of a debrief after. Pop a meeting in your calendar for the event organisers to meet post-the-event to discuss how everything went. Document ways that things could be improved for next time!

 

That’s it from us – have an awesome, fun and safe silly season!

 

The Juggler Part 2: Show your support for the Juggler!

The importance of the Juggler is clear, as many bosses and business owners know only too well.

 

Not sure what we mean by the Juggler? Check out this blog.

 

However, when your business introduces a Juggler – or many Jugglers – they really must be supported. And this is something that is often missed. Not supporting the Juggler in your business poses a risk. This means they are not in a solid position to keep health and safety in check and – as is important – are not able to continue to improve your health and safety program.

 

So, how can businesses show their support to the Juggler? Generally, support falls into three areas; leadership support, provision of training / instruction, and allocation of resources. Below is some practical advice for any business looking to help their Juggler out!

 

Leadership Support

The boss must communicate the need for all workers to carry out safety related tasks and, when required, must step in to support the Juggler. Whilst the Juggler will require that others complete safety tasks to support the implementation of the safety program; some people in the business may see these tasks as peripheral. If the Juggler is not able to articulate the importance of the safety task, this is where the boss needs to intervene. When a boss shows the support of the work of a Juggler – generally the rest of the staff fall in line.

Of course, this is made easier if the boss can easily see what tasks are required to be completed by all workers and track progress. A safety software like Safety Champion does help to provide this kind of oversight.

 

Training/Instruction

Since the Juggler is often performing a safety function without formal health and safety training behind them, it’s important to realise that they may need it so that they can perform well in this role. The Juggler often acts as the ‘representative’ of the boss, consulting and communicating with all employees. As such they must be able to speak with conviction to be able to influence others to get behind safety. Should specific technical safety knowledge be required, this can always be undertaken through other means – namely the Safety Regulator, by engaging advice from an OHS professional or employer groups. But the Juggler, no doubt, needs solid training and instruction about their role and responsibilities first.

There is a lot of free training that can be accessed via webinars, free conferences initiated by government departments, councils, industry groups or the regulator, and often free training that is offered by your Workers Compensation Agent. If you’re not sure where to look – Contact Us.

 

Safety Resources

The boss must be prepared to purchase required safety material and equipment to support the Juggler in their role. Resources like these should be part of any risk management solution, and should be budgeted for purchase, maintenance and replacement. One resource that is not often considered is possibly the one most effective in enabling the Juggler to do their work – that of data management. Being able to easily track and progress safety tasks that are being completed by others makes the work of the Juggler easier. And it makes it more likely that safety related tasks will be done, full stop!

So, yeah – it could be argued that this is the lifeblood of health and safety.

 

Having solid support in place to help the Juggler will mean that the boss and everyone else will benefit from effective health and safety practices, which everyone can be confident in making the workplace safety and often operationally more efficient.

Who is responsible for health and safety anyway?

You might find it surprising – but in today’s modern working world it’s not just management, risk teams, and health and safety specialists that have to think about health and safety in the workplace. Everyone has their part to play in living the mantra of “work safe, home safe”. This is how we make sure that everyone goes home safely at the end of each day.

Having a good level of health and safety awareness is key to maintaining an effective safety culture in your workplace. But how do you bring your people on board with this stuff when it all seems too complicated and really just not engaging enough. Well, the trick is to help health and safety responsibilities become naturally embedded in the day-to-day activities of all staff. Aim to be implicit[1] with safety, not explicit.[2]

How?

Well, here are our 3 top tips for starting to create an awareness of health and safety responsibilities without your people switching-off:

 

  1. Start at the top

Make health and safety a strategic and operational priority of your organisation, with management regularly communicating and emphasising its importance to all staff. Do this in as many ways as possible; try adding a safety line item to your regular and existing weekly all staff meetings, or simply “just ask” your staff for input about the hazards they are aware of, or even sharing a blog every once in a while with the workplace. It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming – but management leading the way is important!

 

  1. Tailor it

Health and safety legislation and standards are wide-reaching and applicable to a broad range of sectors and organisations. So, your approach to health and safety should be relevant to the industry and context of your organisation. To make it more accessible to your people start with WorkSafe’s Injury Hotspots website – and talk about exactly what is relevant in your industry and not what isn’t! Jump on that site today and print a poster or two to stick up in tea rooms and lunch areas.

 

  1. Simplify it for your staff

Do away with unnecessary complexity and jargon by speaking to your people about safety in simple terms. They don’t need to see the regulations or the complex paperwork – hell, even you don’t – but reminding your staff that health and safety is simply about making sure we all go home safe at night can really bring it home for people. So if you were to ask your people to simply let you know when something doesn’t safe or feel right, that’s already an amazing step forward and brings everyone into the picture. Work with them on the solution. Keep the updated on your progress. Let them know it’s not that hard.

 

 

Don’t forget, Safety Champion can help. Our software is scalable and flexible, and can be customised to suit the health and safety needs of your business. After all, it was designed especially for the small and medium sized business market, and as such comes pre-loaded with configurable documents and workflows that you and your people need to stay safe and stay on track with safety. We have made it easy to configure our templates and workflows to align with business; not to mention, we will adopt your colours and your logos – so your workers will feel at home. Why not arrange a demo today?

 

 

[1] Implicit: Quietly, some may say sneakily trying to build safety into already existing business activities. Doing “safety” without workers/people knowing that they are “doing safety”. The process is important, not people thinking/knowing that the process is safety.

[2] Explicit: Yelling from the roof tops, placing an over-emphasis – making it the most important thing in the room, when the behaviours of managers and leaders suggests it’s not.

The Juggler Part 1 : Who is the Juggler?

Workplace health and safety is all about preventing harm to people from the activities undertaken by a business. To achieve this, employers and business owners must understand they have a duty to provide a safe workplace for their employees and anyone else who comes on site or is impacted by what the workplace does. This means both understanding the health and safety risks facing your people, visitors or clients, and eliminating (*ideally) or minimising those risks as best you can.

 

To do this most effectively, everyone in your organisation must have input into the development and implementation of your safety solutions.

 

But believe it or not, often getting everyone involved is the easy part! At least, at the start. Generally, there is an initial willingness from everyone to be involved – especially if the boss is treating safety as a priority. However, for some workplaces, the challenge is to continue the businesses focus on safety, and to ensure that the agreed safety solutions, are maintained and remain effective.

 

When things get busy, or the boss moves on to “another” focus area, or no one has time to keep those safety checks and measures in place; yep, you guessed it, it is not uncommon for safety to fall ‘off the wagon’.

 

Enter the Juggler!

 

The Juggler is the worker who puts their hand up, or is assigned, management of the operational health and safety work that doesn’t readily fall into the roles or responsibilities of other workers. The Juggler either does these things themselves, or keeps everyone else on track to get things done. Why do they keep people on track?

 

Because often these are the things that others may not be focused on doing as part of their tasks.

 

Tasks may include, to name a few, doing and/or ensuring that the following is completed: inductions and identified training; safety and operational meetings; workplace, first-aid or emergency management inspections; equipment and Personal Protective Equipment ordering and maintenance; and incident reports and workplace injuries are managed appropriately. Importantly, the Juggler is often responsible for ensuring that records and evidence of completion is maintained.

 

The Juggler might be anyone in the business, from the business owner, to the office manager or the receptionist. But whoever they are, they face diverse work duties and manage these simultaneously… just like juggling.

 

So it’s often the juggler who is left with the responsibility of managing the implementation of the safety program. Especially businesses out there that don’t have a designated “health and safety” person. But it’s important to remember that even though the Juggler is out there keeping the safety program alive, and encouraging everyone to join in – especially when or if the pulse is fading, it is vital that businesses continue to acknowledge that everyone is responsible for maintaining a safe workplace and don’t rely on the juggler.

What on earth is an Issue Resolution Process?

What is an Issue Resolution Process, and do I need one? A lot of people ask us this. And they also ask whether they should develop one internally? And our response to this is… well yes, you should. However, if you don’t then you will automatically adopt the issue resolution procedure straight from the Regulations – so it is in your best interest to be across what it requires.

 

Essentially the intent of an issue resolution process is to make things easier for the people in your workplace to come to a resolution following an issue.

 

If you ask us, our take is that the terminology issue and resolution makes it all sound a little scary, and negative. But the short of it is, if you have a business, there will be safety hazards. And if you have employees, then it is likely that you will, on occasions have differences in opinions about how these hazards or other workplace issues are managed. By creating and communicating an issue resolution process, you are simply smoothing it all out, should these differences of opinions occur.

 

We know what you are thinking – does this mean pages and pages of words? No! It doesn’t need to be pages of complicated communication flows, rigid rules, and jargon. However, it does need to be a clearly defined, step-by-step process for how differences in opinion regarding safety management (i.e. issues) are escalated so they can be properly addressed.

 

So, what does your an issue resolution process need to include?

Well, these 4 things:

 

1. Report & Record

Clearly identify how your workers can raise issues. Do they tell someone, do they open an excel register and enter it in, or do they email someone? Sounds simple, but the trick is to make it clear how your people should raise an issue. If you make sure that it is recorded, no one can try to ignore the issue and use the “I didn’t know” clause at a later time. Recording the issue therefore assists in being more confident that the issue is clear, and can be attended to immediately.

 

2. Review & Assess

Who reviews the issues after they are logged? Along with the workers manager, the regulations guide you to ensure that the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) is made aware and consulted with. If you don’t have a HSR, then identify someone in your workplace with health and safety knowledge. Where possible, have a team of people assess and review the issue. This can be a good tactic because a team is more likely to find sustainable controls and resolutions that consider all parts of your business operations.

 

3. Ways to Escalate

If an issue doesn’t get addressed or resolved, where does it go next? Perhaps your people don’t have the expertise or experience to manage more serious issues. So this is where you need a clear pathway for issues to be escalated to management or even out to external parties. Typically, the issues will move from a worker to the HSR and then to the manager. Then, if the issue is not resolved at this level, it may be escalated to the manager’s manager. Then again, if it is not resolved here, it will get escalated up the management line to the CEO and/or Business Owner. And if it makes it all the way and is still not resolved, this is where external experts or the Safety Committee should be consulted. And as a final step, the State Health and Safety Regulator would be involved – here’s a list of the Australian Health and Safety Regulators.

 

4. Follow up & Close Out

How do you confirm that all issues have been addressed correctly and to the satisfaction of the person or team that raised it in the first place? This is an important part of the process – loop back and let your people know what the issue was and how you addressed it, so they can be reassured that it was resolved.

 

And another tip – once you have this process sorted, it should be communicated clearly to your people. Documenting it is a good way to make sure people have access to the information. Consider drawing up a simple and clear Issue Resolution flow chart and sticking it up around the tea room or emailing it around.

 

 

Stuck for ideas on how you can develop a simple way for health and safety issues to be raised, recorded and managed until close out? Well, Safety Champion Software has a module dedicated to do just this – yep, shipped and ready for used. Don’t make it hard and complicated for your people to raise issues that concern them. Make the ‘doing’ of Issue Resolution Process Management super simple with Safety Champion.

Should I be worried about my staff being bullied at work?

Look, maybe you don’t need to be worried about but certainly you should be aware of workplace bullying and how it can impact your people. Surprising for some – perhaps not for others – it is a real thing and something that happens in Australian workplaces often enough for us to write about it.

 

“9.4% of Australian workers indicated that they had experienced workplace bullying in the previous 6 months (Safework Australia, 2014–15)”

 

So what is workplace bullying?

 

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. I can be carried out by one or more workers.

 

The definitions are important.

 

  • ‘Repeated behaviour’ refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.
  • ‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

 

Examples of such behaviour, whether intentional or unintentional, include but are not limited to:

  • abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
  • aggressive and intimidating conduct
  • belittling or humiliating comments
  • victimisation
  • practical jokes or initiation
  • unjustified criticism or complaints
  • deliberately excluding someone from work-related activities
  • withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
  • setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • denying access to information, supervision, consultation or resources to the detriment of the worker
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours, and
  • changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to deliberately inconvenience a particular worker or workers.

 

So what should you do to look out for your people?

 

  1. Watch out for these things happening in your workplace. Note that though they could be one-off incidences, they are certainly something you should take note of and watch carefully. Because a single occurrence could be indicative of repeated behaviour that has already happened or may happen in the future.

 

  1. Be aware of changing characteristics of your staff. People experiencing bullying could show signs such as; distress, anxiety, panic attacks, physical illness, deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends, poor work performance, inability to concentrate and more.

 

  1. Talk to your staff about workplace bullying, keep it on the agenda, and reiterate your workplace has zero-tolerance for it. If you don’t have a policy and clear procedures for how your staff should manage this if it happens – get it sorted! Reach out to OHS consultants that can help set this up. As a minimum you should have:

– a policy statement, and

– be able to demonstrate that you have spoken with your workers (this may be via formal training, or toolbox talk) about what bullying is and how to report it; and,

– consider providing workers with easy access to help and/or someone to speak to if they identify a need. Obviously the Issue Resolution Process is a good start, however, you may want to consider external and confidential services like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or direction to free contacts such as Lifeline, beyondblue, Headspace, The Black Dog Institute… to name a few. Put the contact details up on a noticeboard or in internal newsletters / communications emails.

 

  1. Skill yo’self up! Read the guidelines from Safe Work Australia. Learn more about related issues and check out the available resources from Heads Up – an alliance between a handful of reputable organisations created to ensure people in Australia workplaces are mentally healthy and safe. Or take a ‘mental health first aid’ course through Mental Health First Aid Australia. There’s lots of resources out there for you to use.

 

All of these things can help you to be better aware and better prepared for workplace bullying if it happen in your workplace. Good luck!

Are your workers often working off-site?

Many employers don’t realise this. But if your workers are travelling to other locations to perform work for your business, you are actually legally obliged to ensure that they are working within a safe and healthy environment – you can’t assume everything will be ok. This is the same obligation that you have for workers within you usual workplace.

 

Interestingly, this covers a number of work situations, including when your workers work from home, or when you send one of your workers to work at another workplace for one day, or, on a regular basis for a set period of time, say six months. In each scenario, your obligation is the same – as an employer you must ensure that you have, so far as reasonably practicable, ensured of the health and safety of your people.

 

So how can you do this, given this other workplace or space is not actually yours to manage or control? Here’s some ideas from us:

 

  1. Before your worker heads out, think about the company they are working with. Are they reputable? Does this organisation have OHS or WHS procedures in place?
  2. What are the work condition like at the company they will be working? If you don’t know the conditions, can you organise a site inspection prior? Obviously, if you do inspect and there is something identified as unsafe, can you make sure that they do something about this before your worker begins their work there?
  3. What work will your people will be doing? Think about the hazards associated with the work. Is there any equipment that you can provide to help your workers to manage the hazards they will be exposed to? For example, if they are likely to do computer based work, if they will be working off laptops, can you provide a portable laptop stand and external keyboard and mouse?
  4. Check to see if the workplace provides inductions and briefings? If not, will they be accompanied when onsite? Make sure your workers have the ability to access information regarding the workplace when they are onsite.
  5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your workers understand that it is ok for them to ask questions about safety! Ensure that your worker is aware that they have the right to also let you know if they are concerned about their health and safety at this workplace. Explicitly brief your workers on this before they head out and keep in regular contact with your workers for the duration of their time working away from your usual workplace.

Now we understand that doing all of this when your people are working from home or headed out for a meeting may seem like a lot to do, so be pragmatic. Is it one off, or regular? Whichever way you go, it is still worth ensuring that Point 5 is well understood. Encourage your workers to ask questions and be curious. A conversation will sure everyone is on the same page!

 

Do you have a specific situation that doesn’t seem so clear cut on what you should do? You are not alone – it can be pretty complex! Why not get in contact with us to see how we can help you iron out the details specific to your circumstance. A five minute call is free, and may save you from overcomplicating the situation.

What on earth is ‘presenteeism’?

Certainly, when managing business, we take into account the impact of paid staff leave from both a financial and productivity point of view. We know the cost to the bottom line, how to manage the workload as our workers take their owed annual leave, how to pick up the slack quickly if someone is unexpectedly off sick, and we have the tools in place to properly track and monitor leave days. But have you thought about the impact of presenteeism? And, more, how to best manage it when it starts to happen?

 

While researching this blog, we actually found a lot of evidence (data mainly from USA) to suggest that presenteeism can have a larger impact on the operational and financial health of a business in comparison to sick leave – which is largely already taken in consideration by most businesses. Ok, so what are these two?

 

Absenteeism is when your workers are not actually in the workplace due to illness, planned leave, family emergencies, or other unplanned events like jury duty. It can become an issue to a business when the number of absent days exceeds what a business has allowed for as reasonable.

 

Presenteeism is when your workers still come to the workplace – only they are not actually working but are rather there in ‘presence’ only. In this case, workers could be ill, lacking motivation, overworked, etc.

 

So, what can you do about presenteeism to avoid this huge and, well, unaccounted for, impact to your business? Here are a few of suggestions – and no surprise – they are all related to ensuring you support the maintenance of a safe, happy and healthy workplace!

 

  1. Encourage your workers to maintain their health!

Suggest flu shots in winter, promote good hand hygiene (put some posters up in those bathrooms), send your workers home when they are showing signs of cold or flu, get a fruit box and support healthy eating, etc. Essentially, the healthier your staff, the better for everyone!

 

  1. Check in with your workers about their workload often.

Don’t expect your staff to always come forward when they are overworked and stressed. Also, don’t expect them to come forward if they feel underworked or believe they have more capacity. Try to actively start that conversation and encourage your managers and team leads to do the same. Motivate your workers. Help them to understand what the right balance is. After all, it is useless to overload a worker when this will actually have the opposite effect, demotivating them to do anything at all.

 

  1. Look out for the signs of poor mental or physical health.

This is tricky, but presenteeism can be common for people with health issues that are not overly visible to an employer, such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain issues and disease. So, this is about maintaining good and open communication with your workers, and trying to determine a way that will better support your staff if these kinds of health issues are present. Things like allowing your workers to work from home might assist or guiding them towards getting proper help.

 

So, there are just a few ideas from us. But really, the best way to manage presenteeism, and absenteeism for that matter, is good communication with your workers and maintaining a happy, healthy and safe workplace for all.

 

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.

 

One way to improve overall wellbeing in your business today

There is no question about it – looking after the health and wellbeing of both you and your people is quite simply good for business. You’ve likely heard all about the trendy, multinational businesses like Google, HSBC, and Facebook promoting their employee wellbeing initiatives to making sure their people are supported to keep a positive work-life balance. But, what can us smaller guys – without the budgets and time to get awesome initiatives off the ground – really do to keep our staff happy and healthy?

 

Well, we would argue that the first place you should start is, perhaps, with yourself. Sounds harsh but a recent article on ABC News pointed out that many Australian SME owners may be putting health and wellbeing on the backburner and are commonly experiencing fatigue, stress and loss of motivation because of their work. Not an ideal situation.

 

Now think about the expression ‘leading by example’. It’s not really a stretch to think that in some cases, the poor experiences of business owners may be negatively influencing their workers as well. For example, if the boss is working long hours, it’s possible they are building a culture of long work hours across the board. And if the boss has low morale and is frustrated, then their people may feel equally as low.

 

So if you want to build positive health and wellbeing into your business, then what we suggest you do first is look after yourself. Look at the way you act in the office. Walk the talk. Eat well. Be mindful. Talk nicely. Work appropriate hours. Understand that what you feel on a daily basis is likely to be reflected onto your teams. Stop and think about how you might be perceived by your workers. And if you notice some bad habits that don’t do you any favours, consider changing them so you can set the example for a happy and healthy in the workplace.

 

After all, investing in people, including you, is simply good for business.

Free upcoming OHS seminar for small businesses | 22 August in Melbourne

It’s no secret – to you or us – that many small businesses are overwhelmed and confused by health and safety rules and regulations. Where to start… what do to… why it’s even important. But thankfully our friends at Action OHS Consulting are running a great free seminar to put this all into place for you and tell you everything you to know about OHS/WHS as a small business owner.

 

OHS for SMEs Seminar

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

10am to 11am

Donkey Wheel House

673 Bourke Street

Melbourne, VIC 3000

 

As part of the Small Business Victoria Festival, this workplace health and safety seminar will be specifically catered to small to medium sized businesses (SMEs). It will provide business owners and managers with a simple overview of the legal and moral OHS responsibilities, and will cover how these can be effectively, and practically, managed within existing ‘business as usual’ activities.

 

With small business accounting for 96% of all Victorian businesses, there is clearly a need for small business owners to understand what the OHS legislation means for business. However, it’s important to note that OHS legislation can be incredibly complex to understand and to apply to a small business workplace setting. This seminar will remove block and help you understand just what you need to know without complicating things.

 

“Too many small businesses find health and safety hard, as they try to replicate what big businesses do. Instead, they should be focusing on what they can do – and what’s appropriate for their specific workplace.”

Craig Salter, Managing Director at Action OHS Consulting.

 

If you are interested in attending this workshop please register here. Excitingly, all participants will be given the opportunity to apply for a free safety review to help them kick start better health and safety management. And don’t forget to check out more of the sessions, workshops and talks that are on at the festival. It looks like a great line-up!

 

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)

Health and safety legislation – the basic explanation

With all the acronyms, authorities and legislation out there, health and safety legislation can be complicated for many businesses that don’t have dedicated specialist staff on board. It can be difficult to know exactly who to listen to and what to take note of for your business. So, we thought we’d give you a quick run down of health and safety in Australia so you know where to turn if you need to learn more.

 

In Australia, the requirement to legislate and regulate health and safety is a function of each individual state and territory. This means that it is state based law, not federal law such as the Fair Work Act 2009. So, the legislation you should be looking at for health and safety is dependant on your state. Here’s a nice clean list for you:

 

Because health and safety regulation is state-based, this is why the authorities have different names from state to state. It’s advisable that businesses are familiar with their relevant regulator and take their cues on health and safety from there. If you are confused about who your regulator is, here’s where you can find the current links to their websites from Action OHS Consulting.

 

Most of these guys have brilliant tools and information readily available to help you out – so head to their websites.

 

And what about Safe Work Australia? Who are they? Put simply, these guys are the national policy body responsible for researching and further developing health and safety strategies each state can adopt. Safe Work Australia is another excellent source of easily digestible information and advice for any business or employee needing to learn more.

 

And before we finish up, another common confusion point is about Worker Compensation. Be aware that Health and Safety Legislation is different to Workers Compensation Legislation. Health and Safety Legislation looks at establishing ways to prevent the accident and injury from occurring, while the Workers Compensation Legislation provides direction on how work related injuries should be managed.

 

So, if you need to learn more about health and safety in your business, familiarise yourself with the webpage of your relevant state based health and safety regulator. Again here’s that list. And then check out Safe Work Australia if you need to know more.

 

 

Still unsure or want to seek further clarification? Drop our team of health and safety professionals a line for more guidance and support specifically suited to your business needs.

 

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 a occupational health and safety expert?

 

“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 have 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.


What on earth did we do before MYOB, Xero or Quickbooks?

It wasn’t actually so long ago that many small to medium sized businesses were still shuffling invoices and receipts around a desk, and filing them away in cumbersome binders waiting for tax time. But thinking about it now, how on earth did we do that?! Where would your business be now without the convenience and ease of software like MYOB, Xero or Quickbooks?

 

Whilst accounting has now become that much easier to handle in the workplace – even for the lay person – the same will soon be true for health and safety management. In the very near future it will be difficult to believe that once upon a time we were still manually recording health and safety checks, hand writing incident reports and maintaining registers in messy shared spreadsheets. The beautiful thing is that this ‘easier way of the future’ for health and safety is actually already here.

 

More and more businesses are starting to pick up on this. One of our clients who recently rolled over to our cloud-based health and safety software, reported immediate improvements to workplace safety culture. They told us that the software assisted them to think about incident prevention often and early, and before any unfortunate accidents might occur.

 

What other benefits do users of OHS or WHS software software find? And why do businesses need it? Well, here are the four main benefits that we are hearing from our clients:

 

  1. It allows for greater oversight by management.
  2. It produces accurate and consistent reporting and information.
  3. It makes information and reporting easily accessible.
  4. It promotes a safety-first culture, which ultimately keeps us safer!

 

So, just as MYOB changed the way accounting was done by providing a user-friendly product that simplified the complexity of accounting, OHS or WHS Software or Safety Management Software Systems (however you like to call it!) like Safety Champion do the same for health and safety management.

So, why not take a product tour today? Or read more about the benefits of going paperless.

 

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.

 

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

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. This is especially true for industries like the retail sector where associated risks and hazards are higher due to the nature of the business. Workers regularly lift and move stock around from storeroom to display to customer, increasing risks.

 

So what can you do? 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, using the best operational practices possible to reduce the risks, and encouraging all lifting to happen with the low risk zone (see pic).

 

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.

 

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.

 

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. 


Do you have young, first-time workers on board?

Last year, WorkSafe Victoria ran a brilliant public campaign to build awareness about the vulnerability of young people to workplace injury – especially those working in the retail, construction, hospitality and manufacturing industries. Why are they especially vulnerable? Well, it’s simply because they lack the experience, foresight and maturity to know when they may be putting themselves or others at risk.

 

So, what do you need to do to manage your duty regarding OHS for the first-time workers that you have on board in your workplace? Well, think about it from the perspective of sales and customer service. When new employees first start you give them training and guidance about things like the products you have available, how to help customers find what they need, and how to use the cash register, right? Well, it’s the same for health and safety… they need training and guidance.

 

Since, they’ve never been in a workplace before, they probably don’t know the first thing about the concept of health and safety. Maybe they’ve seen the acronyms OHS, WHS, OSH or WOHS, but don’t know what it means to them. So, start at the beginning. Ensure that health and safety has a prominent position in your induction and initial training sessions. Ensure your new workers know the health and safety procedures, how to use your equipment, what the right safety gear is to use, and importantly make it explicitly clear that they know who to talk to if they have a question about health and safety.

 

Nominating a supervisor or a buddy who can provide day-to-day advice and closely monitor young workers is important. And so is encouraging young people to ask for advice from that person and speak up if they feel something is dangerous, or are unsure. Sure, they may not be experts in hazard identification and risk management, but most of us, even your young workers have that special sense that alters us if something looks dodgy or dangerous to staff or customers. So, reassure them that they can question procedures and tasks if they think there is a risk to their safety and health. They simply need to feel comfortable to raise the issue with their supervisor so that you can together determine next steps.

 

What we love about the WorkSafe Victoria campaign is that it encourages young people to be aware of their role in health and safety in the workplace. After all, a healthy and safe workplace is one that actively involves everyone from senior management all the way through to your newest and youngest staff members.

 

So, why not try using these videos to open up communication with your young workers about health and safety in your workplace today.

Are you protecting the safety of your workers who handle cash?

This is something that you may not have thought about before. But just by being a business where cash handling is a common part of your daily dealings, you may be increasing health and safety risks of your workers.

 

If you think about it, this makes sense. Often small and medium sized businesses, like as entertainment venues, restaurants and retailers, don’t have access to the same security systems and measures for cash handling that the bigger guys have. This can make your business a vulnerable target, increasing the chance of theft and robbery. And your workers may actually get caught up in these instances if they do occur.

 

So, what can you do to protect the health and safety your workers from these risks? While an exhaustive and expensive security system may not be viable for you right now, there are a number of simple things that you can do now to reduce the chance of any unfortunate events happening. Here’s just a few from us:

 

  • Get your team together and assess your processes and the workplace itself to see if there are hazards that can easily be managed and improved. Use the hazard identification checklist in this guide (Appendix A) to help you.
  • Encourage, don’t discourage your customers from using credit or EFTPOS to minimize the amount of cash you take in.
  • Avoid routine when it comes to moving cash off site such as changing the day and route that you travel to the bank.
  • Ensure that when you are handling large amounts of cash there is more than one person present.
  • Where possible, attempt to have cash handling spots in highly visible locations.

 

While this list includes just a few of the things to consider, it really is vital that you take an active role in managing the things that may be increasing the risk of cash-related incidences at your workplace. After all, it is for the protection of your employees, and their health and safety. To help you out, read this guide from Safe Work Australia – Guide for transporting and handling cash, for a more extensive overview of things you should consider.

Ways to reduce the risks of fatigue in your workplace.

There’s no denying that the 24/7, ‘always on’ world we are now living in is becoming more than a worry when it comes to both our mental and physical health and wellbeing. And one of the biggest worries is sleep – or more specifically, the lack thereof! A recent report released by the Sleep Health Foundation highlighted that the daytime consequences of inadequate sleep are increasingly common, affecting up to 45% of the population. So that made us wonder – what does this mean for health and safety in the workplace?

 

Unsurprisingly, the report revealed that a lack of sleep can affect worker performance. Scarily, 29% of adults in the study reported that they had made errors at work due to sleepiness or sleep problems. While 17% reported that they missed work due to feeling sleepy. So, encouraging good quality sleep is clearly important for any business looking to optimise productivity and worker performance.

 

But it goes further than this. Many workplaces need to manage high consequence hazards that may be heavily impacted by fatigue. One of the key hazards, common to many roles and workplaces, is driving. On this point, the Sleep Health Foundation report revealed some alarming stats with 29% of people reporting that they have driven whilst drowsy and 20% actually nodded off whilst doing it. But worse still, 5% of the respondents reported having had an accident in the past 12 months due to dozing off! So, if driving is part of your workers role, or is even simply the way they get to and from work, supporting your workers to get better sleep is vital.

 

So what can you do? Whilst we’d all love to provide a room full of hammocks, nap pods like Google, or a dedicated siesta time, it’s unfortunately not practical for all workplaces! So below are some simple and effective considerations to help you manage the impact of fatigue on your workers:

 

Talk to your workers

Learn whether the work itself might be a contributing factor to the sleep quality of your workers. Discover whether there are tasks that your workers identify as dangerous or difficult when they are fatigued. Talking to your workers will help you identify the health and safety hazard, so you can establish a process to control it and manage the risks.

 

Change your workplace culture

Don’t disadvantage workers who turn their phone or email off when they leave the office. And don’t just say this, actively encourage it by setting the example yourself and communicating about the importance of switching off to allow for proper rest and recuperation.

 

Provide workers with information

The Sleep Health Foundation has over 75 fact sheets that can guide and inform you. Use these to lead a health and safety toolbox talk with your workers, or print a few of the most relevant ones to pin up in the staff kitchen.

 

Establish a Driving for Work Policy

This is a guideline that maps out safe distances to be travelled within specific time periods, start and finish times, car safety ratings should there be an incident, etc. It can help to manage the risks of driving while on the job.

 

Sleep disorder screenings

For higher risk workers, such as those who work in transport, shift work, or operate heavy machinery, consider whether a sleep disorder screening could be of benefit. This may be pre-employment or routinely during employment and can help you to manage the risks.

 

 

However, as you explore the workplace factors that may contribute to fatigue risks, remember that it’s not only work related tasks that contribute. The fatigue hazard exists whether it is a result of work or non-work related activity. So, watch out for other personal or home-related factors such as workers with newborn babies or stress.

 

Check out this useful factsheet about fatigue as an occupational hazard to help you make sure you are on top of managing the risks.

 

 

Some things you hadn’t thought about when you last hired a contractor…

Just in case you were wondering… yes, your business has the same duty of care towards contractors as it does for its employees. The contractors you engage must be provided with a working environment that is without risk to health and safety, just like everyone else.

 

You get that but actually you are pretty confident that your workplace is safe. You are totally on top of managing OHS policy and procedure. But let’s spin this on its head for a second. Have you thought about whether the contractor themselves might introduce risks you haven’t already planned for?

 

Here’s some things to think about managing the time you have at work:

 

  • Ensure of competence. If the contractor is not competent to complete the work that you have agreed on they may be putting your other workers at risk. So, before you take them on, gather supporting information like certificates and licences, and verify competency through references.
  • Conduct an induction. If they don’t know the rules and procedure, again they may be putting others, and themselves, at risk. Hold an induction covering workplace rules, emergency procedures, hazard and incident reporting processes before they commence work. And regardless of whether they are at the workplace for an hour or a year.
  • Define responsibilities. Identify which workers in your workplace will be responsible for managing or supervising contractors. This will help ensure that if anything goes amiss, someone with workplace experience can catch it early.
  • Monitor work. Once the contractor has commenced work, your responsibility does not stop. Keep across what they are doing and check in with them. They may have health and safety questions and concerns that come up as they go.

 

And finally, manage your risk and ensure that the contractor is insured. Request that the contractor provide you with their most current public liability, professional indemnity, and WorkCover insurances, as appropriate.

 

By the way, we’re not just talking about contractors in the construction industry. This is any person, or an organisation for that matter, that provides a service for a fee but is not a direct employee. Think consultants, freelancers, external accountants who work in your office… they are all contractors and, as such, the above still applies.

How to tame your documents…

For many businesses, document management is hard. Ensuring that documents are controlled so obsolete documents and superseded versions are not in circulation or being used can be difficult. While workplaces print our forms to allow easy access by workers when in need, these need to be removed when a document is updated. Whist on the surface, there may appear to be minimal consequence if an incorrect OHS document is referred to; should the OHS document be a work instruction, the result may be dire.

 

Documents are the guide for OHS implementation (i.e. the checklist template, the meeting agenda); whereas, Records demonstrate implementation of your OHS System into your workplace (i.e. the completed checklist, the meeting minutes).

 

If you are looking into way to tame your OHS documents, the following provides some nice direction on where to start:

  • Undertake sweep of documents that have been printed – are only the current versions available? Moving forward, can you look to review available OHS documents when undertaking workplace inspections?
  • Plan. Identify where you intend to store your OHS documents. Aim to store OHS documents in a secure location that can be accessible by all required stakeholders. This may be via an intranet and/or for a smaller business a Google Drive or Drop Box. Where ever you decide to store your documents, you should ensure that there are restrictions on who can edit or delete the document.
  • Develop a register of all OHS documents that have been developed for use within your organisation. Whilst Excel is a good start – ensure that those who can access and edit this document is controlled.
  • Determine who, or which department within your workplace will be responsible for maintaining, authorising and updating each OHS document. These responsibilities may be assigned as a whole or by individual document. List the person or department on the “OHS Documents Register“.
  • On each individual OHS document, (generally within the document footer,) as a minimum record the:
    • Document title
    • Date
    • Page number, and
    • Version number.
  • Make sure that you record all the information that you just included in the footer of your OHS document into the “OHS Documents Register“.
  • And finally, on the “OHS Document Register“, keep notes of all the changes that have been made to each OHS document.

The “OHS Documents Register” will be your key for clarity and managing the whole document management process – so, make sure you back it up!

This all said, if you are reading this thinking that “it’s all a little hard”, maybe cursing and perhaps of the opinion that the chances of an “OHS Document Register” being maintained is a crazy suggestion for us to make, then here’s an alternative idea for your consideration…Safety Champion. Safety Champion Software has a Document Management module that can do all of this for you. In addition, it will archive soft copies of obsolete OHS documents so they are can’t be accessed, but are never lost. Yes, it’s web-based, paperless and accessible on all your devices, but more importantly it will save you a stack of time and establish an efficient document management process, that will ensure your workers have access to your most current OHS document every day and every time. it is document Management made easy.

How to tame your records…

For literally every business out there, records management is the bane of everyone’s existence. Regardless of whether you are filing the “old school way” (i.e. shelves and shelves of paperwork, or folders in archive boxes), or you’ve moved into the “now” and you’re all cool and all about digital (i.e. scanned copies stored on internal computer drives), records management can be a headache.

 

Records demonstrate implementation of your OHS System into your workplace (i.e. the completed checklist, the meeting minutes); where as, Documents are the guide for OHS implementation (i.e. the checklist template, the meeting agenda)

 

When it comes to OHS records, the legislation actually requests that you to hang on to some for up to 30 years. Yep, 30 years! This said, there are other OHS records that the legislation requires you to hold onto for what may seem forever (i.e. the length of time a piece of equipment is at the workplace)! Nervous? Don’t be. Just get organised.

Yes, you can store records in folders. The challenge with this is finding them when needed, or identifying trends – once filed, often the OHS records is never to be seen again. These days, with the ease that we use computers, paper-based records appear harder to locate. Perhaps the level of “hardness” is at where it has always been, the ease of access via a computer has just shone a spotlight on it.

This said, when looking to establish a plan for managing your OHS records let’s get one thing straight. It is crucial that OHS records are not stored on employees personal computer drives or on an employees computer. Why? It is simple, if the employee leaves or their computer is lost, it is likely the OHS records will go missing also.

If you are a smaller business, Google Drive or Drop Box will support secure control of your documents; depending on your settings, deleted documents are archived not lost. Don’t be restricted to these two, there are a number of options out there for you to consider.

If however you are reading this and thinking, wouldn’t it be great if…

 

“When I store an OHS record, the saving of the record would then schedule the next occasion that the task is to be completed”

 

…then your thinking has aligned with ours. That’s exactly what we created with Safety Champion. Safety Champion offers a simple OHS Software solution for records management. Of course it’s web-based, paperless, and available on all devices. It will allow you to save all of your OHS records neatly in the cloud, to ensure that they can be easily access when the need arises. Great for management visibility of your OHS program, and amazing for OHS or compliance audits.

This is an office. That OHS stuff doesn’t really apply here…

Right? Well, not quite. Actually, health and safety legislation in Australia doesn’t distinguish between industries or workplaces at all. Your duty to provide a ‘working environment that is safe and without risks to health and safety’ still applies even if you think it’s just those guys hanging off the side of your building cleaning the windows who have something to worry about. The health and safety of office workers is just as important.

 

So, what do you need to need to be aware of exactly? Well, OHS legislation is really all about mitigating risks to the health and safety of your workers. The legislation actually outlines a few duties that you, as a business owner or manager, can use to help you frame how to respond to it. Here are just a few of the things that relate to office workplaces to give you an idea of what we are talking about:

 

Emergency Management – What’s the plan if there’s a fire, serious injury, or aggressive customer?

Worker Training – Is OHS in your induction for new employees? Do your workers know the basics?

Consulting your Workers – When was the last time you spoke to your workers about OHS?

Incident Reporting – Did you know you need to keep a record of many injuries?

Managing Hazards – How do you manage:

  • Electricity – How is damaged equipment removed?
  • Housekeeping – Are there broken chairs lying around that someone might sit on?
  • Heavy Lifting – Do your staff sometimes carry heavy items around? Should they?
  • Stress – Are workloads increasing right now? Are you going through a big change in procedure or structure? Read more about stress management here.
  • Workstation ergonomics – What equipment have you provided? Is it suitable?

 

You are probably already starting to think about some things in your workplace that you really should look into further, right? But don’t worry. It’s not as hard as you think to put some solid control measures in place to prevent unnecessary injuries and illnesses.

 

To get started or to refresh some of the procedures you used to have in place, try reading a few of the resources below for more information, setting up a meeting with your workers (if you have OHS representatives great!) to review your procedures and policies, engaging an OHS consulting specialist company to help guide you, or even trying a software system like Safety Champion which comes with all of the checks and measures you need, tailored perfectly to your business needs. The good news is that if “stuff” is happening, your procedures don’t need to be documented – you just need to be able to demonstrate that you are doing something. If you look to document them, which can improve consistency and support knowledge transfer, try to avoid long and lengthy – could a flowchart or playbook better suit your business?

 

Sounds like a hassle, but the good news is that doing this right is good for business too. Ultimately, well implemented health and safety practices in your business will likely result in improved productivity and a healthier and safer office culture.

 

 

After more detailed information about this?

Here are some detailed docs about First Aid: First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code (VIC) and Code of Practice First Aid in the Workplace (Other States). In addition, our friends at Alsco have 40+: (i) first aid signs, (ii) first aid visual guide posters; and (iii) first aid posters, that are all freely downloadable and print ready. And here are some more docs about managing the working environment: Workplace Amenities and Work Environment (VIC) and Managing the Work Environment and Facilities (Other States)

 

 

How to prevent stress from escalating in your workplace.

This is news to a lot of businesses we work with, but currently work-related stress is the second most commonly compensated illness or injury in Australia. So, it’s a big deal and something for businesses to certainly watch out for. But how does it escalate to this point? And what signs can you look out for to ensure that your staff don’t burn out before year-end?

 

Did you know that mental stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year? [Safe Work Australia, 8 April 2013]

 

Work-related stress often arises when work demands exceed a worker’s capacity and capability to cope. This may be seen through changes in a worker’s mood such as increased nervousness, low morale, inattentiveness, anxiety, negativity and frustration. But it may also become apparent through changes in your workers ability to perform to their usual standard. If you notice changes in staff productivity such as missed deadlines, changes in quality of work, tense relationships between staff, and increased sick days, ask yourself whether there may be a stressor in the workplace contributing to or causing this.

 

Workplace change such as restructures, new leadership, and other major organisational events like EOFY are known workplace stressors. Therefore, it is important that you consider the health and safety of your workers whenever your business is undergoing any of these events. Be on the front foot to mitigate the risk of stress on your staff. During these times, and anytime you notice the tell tail signs of stress mentioned above, ask some of the following questions:

 

  • Have you placed unreasonable deadlines or pressure on your staff?
  • Is there a change in the duties you have asked them to perform?
  • Are you over- or under-supervising?
  • Is the work boring or without challenge? Is it too hard?
  • Do your workers have the resources to fulfil the duties of their role? This could be time, skills, team members, or physical resources.
  • Is there an adequate working environment or equipment available?
  • Has there been adequate opportunity for promotion, training or upskilling?
  • Is harassment or discrimination being experienced?

 

Identifying risk is the first step to managing stress, just like any other hazard in the workplace. So, look out for the early warning signs and communicate these to your business leaders, Health and Safety Representatives and workers. Then you can assess them, determine effective control measures and prevent stress from escalating into something much more serious.

 

Remember that stress not only impacts your workers’ productivity and quality of work, but it can also extend beyond the workplace and into your workers’ private lives. And of course, the last thing that any of us want is to affect the family life, personal relationships and health of our colleagues around us.

 

Looking for more direction on how to identify whether stress may be a hazard in your business? Take a look at WorkSafe Victoria’s Stresswise Toolkit Worksheet. What we love about this resource is that it provides businesses with a simple approach that can be easily implemented at your workplace. Just like what we at Safety Champion do.

How to actually achieve your OHS targets in 2017

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Ok, this is something that we harp on about a bit at Safety Champion – but it’s just so true. Wishes are good when blowing out birthday candles, but when it comes to the health and safety of your workers, just hoping that it’ll all be all ok is not fair on anyone! So, here’s a few planning pointers to help you reach your OHS targets in 2017.

 

At the end of the day, the point of safety objectives and targets is to make your workplace safer, right? So, start by identifying potential areas for improvement. Maybe these are things that you didn’t quite get around to doing last year or stuff your staff have been complaining about for a while. Let’s call these goals. Maybe it’s something like ‘Ensure all staff are trained and briefed about our Safety Management System’. A few obvious ones may come to mind, but consider consulting your workers to identify goals that are most relevant and will have impact.

 

Once these have been identified be sure to prioritise the goals. We can’t achieve everything at once, especially when time and resources are limited – so select the goals that will have the greatest impact. Prioritisation will help keep everyone focused on what is most important.

 

Now, establish some specific targets to achieve within each of the broader goals. This is where it gets a little more specific. So, for our example above, a target could be ‘Ensure we meet at least 80% attendance for quarterly OHS training in our workplace for the year 2017.’

 

The most important part of this exercise it to ensure that the targets you set are clear and measurable. While it is good to be ambitious at times, there’s no point setting targets that you cannot possibly achieve. So yes, make them challenging, but also make them achievable.

 

Now, it’s time to identify the activities that you will undertake in order to achieve these targets, and assign those activities to your workers. Again, taking our example, an activity could be ‘Design and facilitate quarterly OHS training sessions for staff’ and this could be assigned to ‘Jenny.’

 

Often clients tell us that they have targets and have identified activities; however, they struggle to implement. This is very common – so don’t worry, you are not the only ones! Here are a few of the key reasons for this so you can watch out for them:

  • OHS activities are not clearly assigned to workers.
  • Workers are not given adequate resources, information or timeframes to complete their assigned activities.
  • Workers are expected to complete safety activities in addition to their regular job. TIP; make safety activities part of a position description and NOT an addition.
  • Workplaces fail to monitor the progress of each activity on a regular basis.

 

So, make sure you set up regular progress reviews throughout the year to ensure you are on track to meet your targets. These reviews can also be used to re-align your targets to ensure that remain relevant! Meet with your workers to ensure they have everything that they need to complete the activity on time. If they don’t, get it for them! And don’t forget to assess the performance of each activity against the boarder goals and targets set. Make sure your health and safety efforts continue to align with what you determined was most important ing the beginning.

 

Right, that’s it in a nutshell. And while all of this can all be easily managed in our Safety Champion OHS Software, it is certainly possible to follow these pointers and track it all manually too. If you are doing it this way, why not use some of our OHS Tool Box Talks to start conversations with your workers around what the most important areas for improvement in your OHS Safety Management System are. Good luck!

Planning this year’s Christmas Party? Know your health and safety role

Yes, Christmas is a great time to celebrate the year’s achievements and let loose with your colleagues and workers. It’s a fun event and one we certainly look forward to each year. However, many employers are surprised to hear of their responsibilities in terms of ensuring their workers are safe and healthy at these events. Because, actually, a workplace-endorsed event like a Christmas party means many occupational health and safety rules and regulations still apply. So, let us give you a run down.

 

In most legal contexts, the work Christmas party is considered part of the work environment – even if the party is held after hours or offsite. So, this means that your responsibility to provide a safe environment for your employees still applies. As such, your workplace risk management practices with respect to health and safety need careful consideration for these kinds of events. And they become a little trickier when alcohol is added – the risk is obviously heightened.

 

It is important for businesses to understand that they may be liable for any employee injuries that occur before, during or after a workplace function, regardless of whether the injury happened as a result of the employee being intoxicated.

 

A ruling by the NSW Workers’ Compensation Commission accepted a claim lodged by an employee who was injured following business drinks with a client. Even though the employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury, the NSW Workers Compensation Commission found that socialising with the client was in the course of employment.

 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Like all other hazards in the workplace, you just need to take the steps to understand and mitigate the risks for your upcoming Christmas party! Here are some suggestions from us:

 

Risk Assess. Document a risk assessment that identifies all foreseeable hazards and their defined controls, and incorporate this as part of your event planning. For example:

  • Do you have a plan in place for managing intoxicated guests?
  • Do you have a plan in place for managing uninvited guests?
  • Have you considered security options? Does the venue provide security, or should you hire your own?
  • And don’t forget to consider a site inspection prior to the event.

 

Revisit and Remind Your Employees of Your Expectations. In the days prior to the Christmas event, remind staff by email or memo about the expected standards of behaviour, and the disciplinary consequences that may take place. This should see you reinforce your workplace’s OHS, EEO and Code of Conduct Policies to all attendees.

 

Be clear. Explain to guests when the event will finish. Clearly set out defined start and finish times for the event and ensure that these are stated on the invitation. Realise that arranging or paying for drinks at an ‘after party’ will most likely extend your liability.

 

Travel. How will workers travel to and from the function? In some states, remember that your workers compensation obligations do not just cover the employee’s time at work, but also extends to the journey to and from work – in this case the Christmas party.

 

Manage alcohol. Consumption of alcohol is likely to be a key risk. Consider restricting the amount of drinks or the strength of drinks that are available. If possible, avoid table service and ‘top-ups’ as it makes it harder for employees to break between drink or keep track of how many drinks they’ve had. Always have non-alcoholic alternatives available.

 

Provide food. A meal or finger food has been shown to slow down alcohol consumption. Also, Provide substantial and diverse food options making sure dietary requirements are catered for.

 

Supervise! Appoint someone to be responsible for overseeing that the festivities run smoothly. This person should monitor safety hazards such as wet floors, loose cables and manage incidents that may occur during the event. What are your internal first aid procedures? Supervision should include monitoring the controls identified within your pre-event risk assessment.

 

Debrief. In the days following the event, review the pre-event risk assessment and evaluate the effectiveness of the identified controls. Good documentation at this end will support your planning for next year.

 

And finally, while health and safety is important, it should not be a blocker for a great time! Some careful thought and planning before your Christmas party will ensure that it is enjoyable, safe and fun for everyone involved!

 

Merry Christmas from everyone at Safety Champion!

Everything you need to know about Personal Protective Equipment

As an employer you are responsible for establishing control measures to best ensure your workers are not injured when at work. One method commonly used to manage your workers exposure to hazards in the workplace is by providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Whilst it’s common for businesses to provide PPE to workers and contractors, many are not exactly sure of the circumstances or rules that surround this. So, let us give you a quick overview.

 

What is PPE?
PPE is anything used or worn by a person to minimise risks to that person’s health or safety. It includes a wide range of clothing and safety equipment such as boots, facemasks, hard hats, earplugs, respirators, gloves, safety harnesses, high visibility clothing and more.

 

When should PPE be used?
PPE should be used when an uncontrolled hazard has been identified in the workplace. Some common hazards that PPE is often used to help manage include:
Noise = earplugs or earmuffs
Dust = respirators
Contact with skin and/or body = gloves, clothes, apron, glasses, safety boots
UV Radiation = clothes, hat, glasses, sunscreen. Read more about this here.

 

How does PPE work?
PPE creates a barrier between the worker and that hazard. However you should remember that on most occasions PPE will not stop full exposure to the hazard. It will only reduce the workers exposure to that hazard.

For this reason it’s important to note that PPE should not be used as the only measure you use to manage hazards. Generally PPE should be used to supplement higher level control measures – think of it as a back-up, or, as an interim measure until a more effective way of controlling the hazard can be used.

 

Do I have to provide it?
In short, if workers are required to wear PPE to undertake their job, the employer must provide PPE to workers.

 

So, how do you know if PPE is required?
Generally, PPE is either standard across your industry (for example wearing high visibility clothing when working around traffic), or, has been identified as the outcome from a risk assessment that your workplace has completed.

 

Can I charge my employees for it?
If PPE has been identified as a requirement by the workplace, it’s actually an offence for an employer to charge or levy a worker for it. This includes footwear if it has been identified as a requirement of the role. Workplace relations’ laws also prohibit deductions from employee’s wages for PPE. With respect to some PPE and footwear, often some workplaces will have a ‘standard’ PPE offering. Workers may seek reimbursement outside of this offering, if they choose, so long as their PPE meets the required standard.

 

How do I choose the correct PPE?
When choosing PPE, you should consult with the users of the PPE – your workers – to ensure that the it does not create additional hazards, and to ensure that it will not impede the worker to undertake their job. Something that is often forgotten is considering how the PPE will be used in practice – simple, yet often missed! Once the PPE has been identified at your workplace, your next step should be to ensure that it meets the appropriate Australian Standards.

 

Is there anything else I should be aware of?
There are a couple of key things:

  • Firstly, if you provide PPE in your workplace, there is an expectation within the legislation that you will train your workers on the correct use, fit and maintenance of the PPE. Whilst there is a legislative requirement to do this, there is no legislative requirement to document this. However, should there be an injury in the future – consider whom the investigator will believe? The worker who advises that they have not been trained – whether this is true or not. Or the workplace that advises that the worker has been trained but has no documented records to prove it.
  • Secondly, the PPE you chose may have an expiry date – for example hardhats. This means that you will need to identify a process to monitor and manage this.
  • Finally, issuing PPE may mean that your workplace has additional legislated duties, such as completing audiometric (in other words hearing-related) tests. These tests, as an example, must be typically completed within specific timeframes. So bear this in mind.

 

 

We know that even something as simple as using the right equipment and gear in the workplace can add to your ‘to do’ list and escalate into a small headache. But with our Safety Champion Software, features like automatic reminders about PPE replacement deadlines, or quick PPE overview Toolbox Talks all come as part of the package. So, to make things a little easier on yourself, why not take a product tour today?


Which SPF rating sunscreen should my workers be using?

These days, it seems like there are so many different SPF ratings of sunscreen on the market it’s hard to be sure of what it all means. SPF is actually a measure of sunscreens ability to prevent Ultra Violet B (UVB) from penetrating into and damaging the skin. It’s safe to say that the higher the number, the better job the sunscreen will do of this. In case you were hoping that the health and safety legislation would specify which SPF rating you should be using, well, we’re sad to inform it doesn’t.

 

But what the health and safety legislation does specify is that you must identify your workplace hazards, so these can be controlled, to allow you to provide a workplace that is safe for your workers. This means, if you have workers out in the sun, you need to protect them against UV rays so they don’t get sunburn – and melanoma down the track. So, if you do have workers working outdoors, how can this be controlled and what SPF should be being used? Let us give you the low down.

 

Actually, most sunscreens with an SPF rating of 15 or higher do an excellent job of shielding the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. When used properly, SPF15 protects the skin from 93% of UVB radiation. SPF30 is obviously going to be better and provides 97%. So, yep, you guessed it – the higher the better! And certainly either is better than nothing.

 

But it’s important to know that there is no single sunscreen will provide 100% coverage. So, along with the highest SPF rating sunscreen you can get your hands on, you should consider other methods to manage your workers time in the sun, like:

  • Providing UV protective, long-sleeved collared shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Rescheduling tasks to ensure outdoor work is performed at the start of end of the day.
  • Providing access to shelter or shade.

 

And as a general rule of thumb, sunscreen won’t stay effective for longer than two hours without reapplication, regardless of the SPF rating. So, don’t forget to remind your workers of this, despite what the bottle might say!

 

Want to learn about mitigating other risks related to your staff working in the sun? Read our blog about ways to avoid heat stress. And if your business does need to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like sunscreen, to manage sun related hazards, you might find our blog about Everything you need to know about Personal Protective Equipment a useful read.

 

Some like it hot, others get heat stress…

According to the weather gurus, we are approaching another steamy, hot summer in Australia. When are we not, right?! But now is the time to refresh your memory about some of the key ways to protect your employees and contractors working outdoors or in hot conditions from the risks of heat stress.

 

Heat stress occurs when the body cannot sufficiently cool itself. While it can occur all year round in some working environments, risks increase in summer as ambient temperature and humidity rises, along with changes in air-movement, radiant heat, clothing selections, and physical exertion.

 

Signs and symptoms of heat stress include feeling sick, nauseous, dizzy or weak. Workers may also feel clumsy, collapse or experience convulsions.

 

If these symptoms occur, workers should immediately seek first-aid or medical assistance, rest in a cool and well-ventilated area, and drink cool fluids.

 

Impaired workers are not safe workers. If you know the hazard potential, you must manage the hazard exposure.

 

But prevention first! Heat stress can be minimised through the consideration and implementation of a number of controls. Here are a few pointers from us:

 

  • Rescheduling tasks to ensure that anything requiring greater physical exertion is performed during the cooler parts of the day.
  • Identifying methods to rotate workers between tasks that occur in hot conditions, such as up skilling workers to job-share.
  • Identifying and procuring correct mechanical aids or plant that may reduce physical exertion, or, better still, eliminate the requirement to work in the heat.
  • Ensure your workers are wearing appropriate clothing such as light, loose fitting, and preferably cotton clothing. Outdoor workers should be provided with PPE against UV radiation, including a wide brim hat, loose fitting, long-sleeved collared shirt and long pants, sunglasses and SPF sunscreen of 15 or higher.
  • Providing fans or installing air conditioners to reduce air temperature and increase air flow.

 

Remember that the health and safety legislation requires you to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health and safety of your workers and contractors. So, think about adopting some of these ways to help prevent your workers from getting heat stress this summer and all year round.

 

 

Heat stress isn’t the only kind of stress, right? If managing your health and safety obligations is causing you unnecessary stress, why not think implementing our simple and affordable health and safety software to help take the pressure off! Contact us today.

What about the secondary caregiver’s health and safety?

In March this year, Australian dot com giant REA Group announced a pretty amazing parental leave policy. It not only supports parents regardless of their gender but the benefits extend beyond the primary care giver, to the secondary caregiver. Primaries receives six months’ paid parental leave at full pay, while the secondary carer receives three month’s paid leave. This got us thinking a bit about the role of the secondary carer when that newborn does arrive…

 

Typically in Australia, maternity leave is far more likely to be offered to employees than paternity leave for most businesses. Many businesses don’t offer gender-neutral policies nor much of a consideration at all for the secondary caregiver. You might be lucky to get two weeks. However, there is some evidence to suggest that we should be considering the role of the secondary carer – who is at this stage quite often a man – when considering the health and safety of our employees.

 

According to a study from Southern Cross University in collaboration with Griffith University, working fathers with new babies actually experience cumulative fatigue that may pose increased risks in the workplace.

 

The study was undertaken using a survey completed by 241 fathers mostly living on the Gold Coast in Australia. It found that fathers experience increased fatigue during early fatherhood and that this fatigue was related to a decrease in safety behaviour at work. Compared to other men, men with babies less than 12 weeks old were:

 

  • 36% more likely to have a near miss at work, and
  • 26% more likely to have a near miss on the road to and from work.

 

“The results paint a disturbing picture of fathers with babies undergoing worsening fatigue over the first 12 weeks of their baby’s life, unrelieved by poor and interrupted sleep and with potential consequences to their work safety.” – Southern Cross University School of Health and Human Services, senior lecturer Gary Mellor.

 

A core consideration to come out of this research is the concept of rethinking parental leave in general. While secondary carers typically do take time off during a child’s birth, the crucial period for rest and recuperation may come later than the initial two weeks.

 

Have you considered, or should you consider?

  • Providing parental leave for the secondary caregiver later in the baby’s life, rather than just the first two weeks.
  • Providing the secondary caregiver with the opportunity to take a long weekend or two over the first three months of the birth.
  • Modifying their work environment to ensure fatigued new parents are not doing higher risk jobs.
  • Communicating flexible work practices to parents over this period.
  • Consider following suit with REA Group – it is the way of the future after all and the key to keeping great people around.

 

 

Our OHS Software can help your business delegate safety responsibilities to other workers when your people take leave, like parental leave. Contact us today to see how or read more about other considerations with your staff who are expecting here.

 

Six reasons why managers are introducing OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software to their business

There are a lot of benefits that can be gained from purchasing, commissioning and implementing a cloud-based OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software System.

Below are the six (6) recurring views that business owners have raised with us when discussing how OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software has improved their business’ health and safety performance.

 

  1. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software gives me real-time visibility of the implementation of our Safety Management System. It is often difficult for managers to ‘hand on heart’ know the exact status of their health and safety procedures at any one point in time. It can be difficult to keep track of: (i) what has been completed; (ii) what is in the process of being completed; and (iii) what is overdue, at their workplace. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software provides a live overview of all of this.

 

  1. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software makes it so easy for us to implement our Safety Management System. Workers no longer have to waste time second-guessing themselves, using complicated spreadsheets, or handling messy paper files. With OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software everything that needs to be done is presented in a simple dashboard overview. Emails are automatically generated and sent to the safety administrators as each task deadline approaches. Once ‘signed-off’, the health and safety record is saved and filed automatically. And then system then lines up the next task for you. Easy.

 

  1. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software makes my health and safety reporting more accurate and consistent than before. Spreadsheets can be tricky things to manage. Multiple users, manual data entry or extraction, and poor user skills can result in errors and inconsistencies in the data set, and the subsequent reports. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software reduces the ‘human element’ and helps to ensure you have access to more accurate and consistent reporting. This means that you can make better-informed and more appropriate decisions that positively impact your operations.

 

What you need to consider when creating a safety management system for your workplace.

 

  1. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software helps me maintain safety management even when workers are on leave or they have left the business. Having ‘the person’ who coordinates ‘the safety’ in a workplace can be great. Well, for as long as they are in the workplace. But if ‘the person’ is suddenly on leave or has moved on, everything can come to a standstill. Especially if they were managing things in their personal diary or in personal computer files. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software solves this problem. Everything is kept in a consistent way and in one spot. And tasks can be transferred from one worker to another, meaning safety management can continue as planned even when ‘the safety person’ leaves.

 

  1. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software allows us to communicate better and act faster. Providing workers with access to online incident reporting and online hazard reporting means that workers can let their workplace know instantly if an issue arises. Paper report forms can be fine, but the delays in first finding the right form, completing the report, and ensuring it is reviewed by the right person means that businesses are not able to act as fast as they could or should. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software allows communication to flow more seamlessly between workers and managers so that positive action can be taken, fast.

 

  1. OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software gives me easy access to the documentation I need. Typically, Health and Safety Manuals, Operating Procedures or Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are stored in places that are not always useful or logical for workers or managers. They might be stored in multiple locations, on intranets, in folders, in the meal room, anywhere. But OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software stores Safety Management System documentation in the cloud so that it can be easily accessed online. Anywhere and anytime. In the workplace or on the road. As you need.

 

This overview outlines just some of the common ‘good news stories’ that business owners and managers have shared with us about the positive impact of their OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software System. But there are likely to be many more benefits.

If you are thinking about how an OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software System could help you better manage the health and safety of your workplace, please contact us. We’d love to help.

 

Want to know more about OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software? Have read through our blog outlining some of the common misconceptions about what OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software actually does for your business: Six things you should be aware of before implementing OHS Software, WHS Software or Safety Software.

What are your responsibilities for your pregnant workers?

A lot of employers get confused about exactly what their responsibilities are with their pregnant workers. How close to the birth do they go on maternity leave? Are they entitled to more leave for attending doctor’s appointments? Can their existing role be too dangerous for them now that they are pregnant? We’ll try to clear the air a little…

 

Employers must provide and maintain a working environment for their employees that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably possible. Of course, this also applies to your employees who are pregnant. But what a lot of employers don’t realise is that their ‘change of condition’ can also mean in some cases that there must be changes in the conditions of their working environment.

 

Possible risks for pregnant workers in the workplace

Here’s an indication of some of the more common activities and conditions in a work environment that are potentially hazardous to pregnant women:

 

  • Excessive noise (above the noise exposure standard) – Whilst the mother can wear hearing protection, her unborn baby cannot. Excessive noise can damage the developing ears of a baby in utero.
  • Manual handling – Heavy lifting and awkward postures during pregnancy can result in physical complications (abdominal separation, torn muscles or ligaments) or increased risk of falls due to the change in centre of gravity and balance.
  • Standing for long periods – Risk of thrombosis (blood clotting) and varicose veins increases for pregnant women standing for long periods – along with risk of fainting, especially in a hot environment.
  • Working with screen-based computer equipment – Physical changes that occur during pregnancy will mean that adjustments to workstation setup may be required over the course of the pregnancy to reduce stress placed on the lower back.
  • Lead and lead compounds – Lead poisoning is caused by breathing or swallowing lead. Lead can pass from a mother to her unborn baby and increase the risk for miscarriage, cause the baby to be born too early or too small, or result in learning or behavioural problems for the child.
  • Chemicals – Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) will note details about each chemical and whether it is a health risk to pregnant workers.
  • Fumes (particularly chemical) – Fumes can make a pregnant woman feel ill, in addition to potentially affecting the development of her unborn child.
  • Shocks and vibration – Regular exposure to shocks, low frequency vibration or excessive movement may increase the risk of a miscarriage. Examples would be driving or riding in off-road vehicles or earth moving equipment.

Whilst some of these hazards won’t be a concern pre-pregnancy; pregnancy does change this. To manage the health and safety hazard exposures associated with pregnancy, the workplace should consult with the pregnant worker to ensure their pregnancy is effectively managed. To support the conversation, you may wish to invite comment from the workers doctor.

 

Working up until the date of birth

Pregnant workers may work right up until the expected date of birth of their child. However, under the National Employment Standards (NES), if a worker wishes to work in the last six weeks of their pregnancy they must provide you, their employer, with a medical certificate stating that they are fit to work, if asked. It is good to keep this in mind, in case you are concerned about their health and ability to perform their role in the last 6 weeks.

If the medical certificate is not provided within seven days, or if the certificate says that the employee is not fit for work, you may request your employee to take personal leave, such as sick leave, or start unpaid parental leave as soon as possible.

 

Additional time off for antenatal appointments

Employees are not entitled to additional time off work for pregnancy-related appointments by law. However, many workplaces remain quite flexible in this regard and allow their pregnant employees to make doctors appointments during the working day, as they need. It is just a matter of open discussion, ensuring that workloads remain well-managed and the pregnant employees health remains well-managed!

 

 

Implementing our OHS Software solution helps you to plan and manage necessary health and safety duties even when your employees go on leave… like maternity leave. Contact us to discuss how our software can help today.

More requests for ‘sit-stand’ workstations? Try something else…

Since the 60-Minutes story ‘Stand Up Australia – Is sitting down killing us?’ aired in September 2014 the following question has been on every manager’s mind “Do I now have to provide ‘sit-stand’ workstations to my workers?“.

 

To us, the sit-stand workstation phenomena is an example of safety and OHS being used irresponsibly. The misconception that managers must purchase sit-stand workstations to provide a safe working environment is simply NOT true. Yes, managers absolutely do have a duty to provide a safe workplace. But no, this does not mean they need to purchase a bunch of sit-stand workstations.

 

Think back ten years, can you recall the saddle seat? Do you recall fit-balls replacing office chairs? If you can’t, consider taking a look in your storeroom. You may find them in there. Perhaps the sit-stand desk will end up in there with them one day. Who knows?

 

We are not saying that there are not benefits to standing throughout the working day. We would be crazy to. The well-reported health hazards associated with prolonged sitting include (but, of course, are not limited to):

  • increased pressure on the spine,
  • increased strain on muscles and ligaments,
  • possible risks for some cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes,
  • decreased calorie-burning rate (to just 1 cal/min),
  • decreased enzymes that help break fat down (dropping by 90%).

 

A 38-hour working week means that work roughly contributes to 23% of a full week. If this is so, why has the focus only been on seated posture at work, not the other times we sit? Consider the amount we sit outside of work – in the car, on the bus, using the computer at home, watching TV, eating dinner, lunch, breakfast… the list could go on!

 

It is highly unlikely that a workplace would “force” their workers to stay seated all day. Why is this important? Because it means that sit-stand workstations are not your only reasonable method of control.

 

So, if sit-stand workstations have been under consideration in your workplace – try investigating some of the other methods that may be used to manage the hazard itself – static posture or prolonged sitting.

 

Many of the risks mentioned above can be minimised by simply moving out of a seated posture for two (2) minutes every hour. So, in consultation with your workers (including HSRs and Health and Safety Committee if they are in place), have a think about these ideas:

 

Standing meetings

  • Remove chairs from some meeting rooms
  • Provide benches at a raised height that workers can stand around

 

Walking meetings

  • Map out a 1.5 to 2 km circuit for a 30-minute meeting
  • Map out a 3 to 4 km circuit for a 60-minute meeting

 

Run an internal campaign to encourage a standing and moving culture. Fun ideas are:

  • Stand every time you answer a phone call
  • Stand every time you review or read documents
  • Stand when a colleague comes to your desk or office
  • Use to a kitchen, printer or amenity that is not the closest
  • Use telephones, speakers or calendars to set a ‘change’ posture reminder
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift

 

All of these options will support workers to move out of a static posture across the work day. They all support proactive management of the hazard, just like the sit-stand workstation. But what’s also great about these options are that they could all double as fantastic energising and team-building methods, ultimately leading to increased happiness and productivity in your workplace!

 

Why not give them a try?

 

Want to know more about what is actually involved for you to provide a safe workplace for your employees? Read our Safety Management Systems; A Comprehensive Overview post that covers the legislative requirements – you won’t see a sit-stand desk mentioned once.

Help your workers retain those vital skills

Training is an important component of your health and safety program. It ensures that your workers have the appropriate knowledge and skills to competently complete the requirements of their job safely. What training looks like will vary considerably from business to business. Like everything training can be hit and miss. Some training will be effective and engaging, while other training will send workers to sleep, leading to zero-impact and retention.

 

To ensure that you get to most out of your training, we have reviewed some training methods so your can align your programs to achieve the deliverable you are after. Here, we have taken a look at blocked versus random practice; which you’ve probably come across in a sporting context before. Here’s how they work when learning a new skill like hitting a ball;

 

  • Blocked practice: Learn the skill from several scenarios by acting out Scenario A 10 times, before moving onto Scenario B, and then onto Scenario C.
  • Random practice: Learn the skill from several scenarios by acting out Scenario A once, Scenario B once and Scenario C once and repeat this 10 times

 

Ok, so now which one do you think is more effective in helping the skill be retained? The answer is dependent on whether you were assessing the performance after the initial training, or the performance at a later date.

 

Blocked practice should produce better performance than random practice during the initial training. It is an effective way for the participant to ‘understand’ the components of the individual skill. However, once the initial components of the skill are understood, it is random practice that will improve the participant’s ability to retain the skill.

 

Why? Because during random practice, the participant is required to work through the whole skill (from start to finish), as they switch between the different scenarios; rather than making minor adjustments to the skill, using their knowledge from their past performance. In brief, this causes more brain stimulation and activity. More brain activity results in better long-term learning.

 

So, to help your workers really understand the skills to undertake their job safely, your health and safety training should consider shifting from blocked training scenarios to a more randomised approach if this reflects the work that they are undertaking. Whilst challenging for your workers initially – “mixing things up” will improve their skills, help them recall the “skill” in the future, ultimately lead to a safer workplace.

 

 

Our OHS Software solution helps you manage your worker’s training better. Contact us to find out how.