OHS legislation

A quick overview of health and safety penalty notices…

So, an Inspector might have recently paid a visit to your workplace and left you with some kind of ‘report’. Now, it’s likely that this report will be an Entry Report, Improvement Notice or a Prohibition Notice. But many businesses are often unsure about what these actually mean and what they need to do next. So, here’s some brief advice to start you off.

 

First of all, the Entry Report simply is a record of the visit. It advises that an inspector has been onsite, and advises the purpose of their visit.

 

Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices are different. These notices are issued when an Inspector identifies that there’s been a level of non-compliance with the health and safety laws. Note that these notices are not issued on a whim, or because the inspector simply thinks that your workplace could improve in some areas. They are serious. And, as such, they should be taken seriously because it is an offence not to comply with these.

 

Though the notices may vary slightly state to state, here’s a run down of these two types of notices and what they mean;

 

Improvement notices

These notices are issued when an Inspector believes that there is a safety issue that needs to be fixed within your workplace. These notices usually don’t prevent you from continuing business, as the issue is generally required to be resolved within a prescribed timeframe provided by the inspector. The inspector will generally revisit your site to ensure the required improvements have been made.

 

Prohibition notices

These ones are very serious. An Inspector will issue these if they believe there is a risk to your workers from‘an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard’ within the workplace. When these notices are issued you will need to stop all activity related to that hazard immediately until it is correctly managed. In some instances you may need to change the way you work moving forward as part of that management.

 

If you do receive one of these notices, do make sure that you fully understand what the notice has been issued for. If not, seek to clarify this with the Inspector, with legal counsel or with your regulator. If you don’t believe there is a breach, there is often an opportunity to place the notice under an internal review. However, be aware, there are often timeframes for such lodgment – so act fast. Once you understand the notice, make sure you plan to ensure that you have enough time to sufficiently correct the matter.

 

 

Now it goes without saying that there are always ways you can improve health and safety management in your workplace. So, if you are looking for solutions so that you can avoid receiving notices like the ones mentioned above again, check out how Safety Champion software can make things that much easier!

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.

 

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!

 

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.

 

What is the difference between all those health and safety acronyms anyway?

A lot of our new clients come to us and say a similar thing. “I just got confused with all those health and safety acronyms! OHS, OSH, WHS or even WOSH… they all look the same, but are they?”

 

Commonly, businesses just don’t know why there are so many letters in different combinations, and what they actually mean for their business.

 

“I just got confused with all those health and safety acronyms! OHS, OSH, WHS or even WOSH… they all look the same, but are they?”

 

The fact is that the reason they seem the same, is because… you guessed it, they are. The variation in terminology is generally a result from how the health and safety legislation is titled in each Australian state, or the body that regulates the implementation of that legislation.

 

 

The common safety acronyms explained

Here’s a few of the common ones you see around explained:

 

  • WHS: In all Australian stated (other than VIC and WA), you will see people referring to WHS – Workplace Health and Safety due to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or Work Health and Safety Act 2012
  • OHS: In Victoria you will see people referring to OHS – Occupational Health and Safety due to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • OSH: In WA you will see people referring to OSH – Occupational Safety and Health due to the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984
  • HSW: In Great Britain and New Zealand you will see people referring to HSW [Health and Safety] due to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and 2015 respectively.
  • HSE: In Great Britain, you may also see people referring to safety as HSE – this is in reference to their regulator Health and Safety Executive.
  • OSHA: This referencing of the regulator also holds true in the USA. People referring to safety as OSHA aligning with the regulator: Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • EHS: This time, adding the E in there means “Environment”. This adds a layer of environmental considerations to workplace health and safety.

 

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

 

Put simply, these safety acronyms mean exactly the same thing. They guide businesses to make a commitment to establish a workplace where a worker will leave work with the same physical and mental health that they presented to work with.

 

 

Onwards and upwards – getting safety moving

So if you use the terminology interchangeably, this really isn’t an issue. If you do get corrected by some smarty pants, point out that maybe they should be more concerned with the goal of keeping workers safe and healthy in the workplace, and less concerned about technicality and semantics.

 

 

These acronyms often just serve to make workplace health and safety seem even more complex that it already seems to people. So, we say, put the acronym aside for the moment, and just focus on what’s important.

 

And it’s this. All of this, all these acronyms, are simply about one thing: How can we make workplaces safer so that no one is hurt at work!

 

Sign up to our free safety management software today.

 


Alright that’s it from us – be sure to check out our other blogs for more useful information about safety. Try these ones next:

Health and safety legislation – the basic explanation

Why you should pay attention to prosecutions data

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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.

 

Get your free manual handling safety promotion poster

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

What don’t you know about manual handling?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Weight of the products.

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

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

 

Height of the products.

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

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

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

 

 

How to start with better practices today

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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.

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.

Go paperless with your OHS practices

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, finding a lost document will cost a company $122 on average. It is also estimated that 7.5% of all company documents are lost completely. So, let’s assume your company works with 1,000 documents a year – a modest figure. On average, that’s 20 documents a week, 4 documents per working day. That would mean, about 75 of those documents are doomed to be lost. And if you or your workers go about trying to find those documents, that’s a cost to your company of around $9,150 per year!

 

Ok, ok… agreed, it’s very unlikely that you or your workers will be actively looking behind cupboards with a magnifying glass (think Scooby-Doo) for every lost file. However, investigating paper filing and the potential monetary cost associated with this, allows you to consider methods that your workplace could operate more effectively and efficiently.

 

These days, business is all about streamlining processes and systems to increase productivity. We use more software, apps, devices, and access the internet more often than ever before. Our workers are tech-savvy and some of them almost demand that their employers keep up with new technology and innovative solutions that make their work life easier. And our workers, when it really comes down to it, are our business.

 

We use more software, apps, devices, and access the internet more often than ever before.

 

So, keep them happy, engaged and effective in this rapidly tech-focused world! Think about making the switch to paperless in all aspects of your business. Think about the slow hard copy filing processes, the off-site storage costs (a side note; retention periods for important documentation are long, if not becoming longer), the paper, ink and toner bill, and of course the environment! We promise you that the digital solutions to the old paper ways will be out there, regardless of what business you are in.

 

Cloud-based OHS Software to help you manage your occupational health and safety duties is one such example of a product that is already available to integrate into your business. It will streamline those messy paper trails. It will file and store all the records you need to keep safe in the cloud. It will make monitoring procedure and reporting just so much easier. And it will likely make your employees happy as it makes fulfilling their OHS duties that much easier.

 

If you are not there already, it really is time to consider going paperless. So, contact us to shift your OHS practices from the old hard copy ways to a simple, streamlined, cloud-based OHS Software solution.

What’s the difference between documents and records anyway?

It is important to understand that there is a difference between health and safety procedure documents and health and safety procedure records. For many small businesses, documented health and safety procedures are not vital to be in compliance with the legislation. Read more about this here. But health and safety records are most certainly required as they provide evidence of the activities you have performed as part of your health and safety procedure. These records must be kept by your business, just as receipts are kept for the taxman.

Here’s a list of the typical workplace documentation and the associated records that must be kept.

 

Typical Workplace Documentation Associated Records
Hazard and Risk Management Procedure

Workplace Inspection Form

Risk Assessment Template

Completed Workplace Inspection Form

Completed Risk Assessments

Training and Competency Procedure

Induction Training Checklist

Completed Induction Training Checklist

Training Certificates

Consultation and Communication Procedure

Terms of Reference

Consultation Statement

Meeting Minutes Template

Meeting Agenda

Meeting Minutes

Incident Management Procedure

Incident Report Form

Completed Incident Report Form

Photos of the Incident Site

Incident Investigation

RTW Plans / Medical Certificates

 

You may be wondering what happens with all of these records you need to keep. Well, these records must be kept by your business as evidence that you have complied with the legislation and kept a safe working environment for your staff. Generally speaking, with the exception of incident and injury records (which your business should keep, practically forever), your health and safety records should be kept for a minimum of 7 years. Although we advise that you check the exact timeframes and requirements of record keeping with your regulator.

Some pointers for those without formally documented OHS Procedures

For many small businesses, especially those with regular and ongoing communication across all levels of the business, undocumented Health and Safety Procedures may be sufficient to fulfil the legislative duty. Read more about this here. But to ensure that you are managing your health and safety legislative duty, here are some basic ‘no brainer’ procedures that you should consider establishing as a minimum:

  • Hazard and Risk Management. You workplace has a duty to provide a safe work environment. What steps have you undertaken to identify, control and review health and safety risks in your workplace?
  • Training and Competency. Your workplace has the duty to provide information to workers; in addition, there are some statutory obligations regarding training. How does your workplace manage this?
  • Consultation and Communication. The health and safety legislation is not prescriptive – its basis is the risk management approach. How do you know what all of the health and safety issues are without asking your entire workforce? What steps has your workplace established to ensure information is shared across the business?
  • Incident Management. Your workplace has statutory obligations to manage workplace injuries and, under certain circumstances, report incidents to the regulator. What workflows have you established?

If you are reading this and thinking it is still a little too hard, please contact us. We have functional, legislation-compliant solutions that can work for your business, whether it’s small or large.

Advantages to having documented Health and Safety Procedures in place

For many businesses documenting your Health and Safety Procedures is not vital to be in compliance with the legislation. Read more about this here. However, depending on the work that you do, there may be times that the legislation will require you to have your health and safety ‘ways of working’ documented.

For example, in Australia, there is a requirement across all jurisdictions to document the steps that your workers have establish to manage the risks associated with high risk construction work. The requirements of these documents, whether they are documented on paper or glass, are outlined within the health and safety regulations.

But there are also other reasons why your business should consider documenting your health and safety procedures. For example, if you run a company that is contracted by other organisations to undertake work on their behalf, it’s likely that you will one day be asked for a copy of your Health and Safety Procedures. Many businesses aim to manage the risks associated with the engagement of contractors, by only awarding contracts and/or tenders to contractors that have a documented Safety Management System. This ‘direction’ is designed to provide the business with assurances and greater confidence that the contractor they are engaging has considered their health and safety impacts.

For businesses that have not implemented a ‘documented’ Safety Management System this can often be a block on expanding their business. The requirements placed on contractors are here to stay and if anything, are likely to become more stringent. Why – because it makes things safer? No, not necessarily. It is more likely to be associated with us working in a litigious society, where there is a requirement for risk management needs to be explicit and demonstrable.What are Health and Safety Procedures

A final reason why documenting these procedures will be necessary is certification. And this is a different beast altogether. Should you proceed down this path, you should know that certification requires simple methods for the auditors to understand your established or official way of doing something.

There are advantages of certification, one key benefit is the ability to communicate to workers and customers that your Safety Management System is at a defined standard. It doesn’t mean your business is safer, it means that your business’ Safety Management System has achieved a defined standard.

 

An overview of the minimum Health and Safety Procedures required for certification against the Australian/New Zealand Standard and the National Audit Tool Version 3 (NAT3) are outlined in the table below.

 

Standard Documented Procedures Required
AS/NZS 4801:2001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, Guidance for Use. The following procedures are to be documented:

  • Hazard Identification, Hazard/Risk Assessment and Control of Hazards/Risks (of activities, products and services that the organisation has control over) (Criterion 4.4.3.1 / 4.4.6)
  • Health and Safety Consultation (Criterion 4.4.3)
  • Emergency Procedures (Criterion 4.4.7)
  • Monitoring and Measurement of Activities that may cause illness and injury (Criterion 4.5.1)

In addition to documented procedures, the standard requires documented evidence of the following:

  • Health and Safety Policy (Criterion 4.2)
  • Health and Safety Objectives and Targets (Criterion 4.3.3)
  • Health and Safety Accountability and Responsibilities (Criterion 4.4.1)
  • Management Health and Safety Review (Criterion 4.6)
National Audit Tool (Version 3) The NAT3 defined a procedure as a document in text or graphic format that describes the reason, scope, steps to be followed and responsibilities for a component of the Health and Safety Management System. It may also include definitions and references to other documents. It must be implemented effectively.

This means that procedures are required for:

  • Consultation (Criterion 3.4.1)
  • Identification of hazards and the assessment and control of risks (Criterion 3.4.4)
  • The exchange of relevant health and safety information with external parties (Criterion 3.5.3)
  • Dealing with formal and informal health and safety complaints received from external parties (Criterion 3.5.4)
  • Reporting and recording workplace injuries and illnesses, incidents and health and safety hazards, dangerous occurrences and system failures (Criterion 3.6.1)
  • Risk management (Criterion 3.9.7)
  • Verifying that purchased goods meet health and safety requirements (Criterion 3.10.6)
  • Materials and substances are disposed of safely (Criterion 3.10.9)
  • Permit to work – as required (Criterion 3.10.14)
  • Quarantine, or withdrawal from service, of unsafe plant or equipment (Criterion 3.10.17)
  • Material transport, handling and storage (Criterion 3.10.21)
  • Critical incidents (Criterion 3.11.8)
  • Health Surveillance – Identification and Management (Criterion 4.2.1)
  • Corrective Actions (Criterion 4.3.1)
  • Incident investigation Procedure (Criterion 4.3.2)

Don’t wait for the storm to pass, dance in the rain

Many businesses delay initialising their Health and Safety Management System for a number of reasons. Some of the commons ones we hear about every day are:

  • We don’t know where to start – I will look into it later.
  • We are too busy right now (sometimes incredibly busy) – so, our workers need to focus on our operations.
  • We don’t have the budget right now – let’s wait until the next financial year.
  • We are approaching a ‘blackout period’ – our workers need to focus on business themes.

So, why is delaying such an issue? Well, it’s an issue because all businesses have a legislated health and safety duty to provide a safe workplace. And, yes, this means right now, not later, not when you have the budget available, and not when you have time to finally turn your attention to health and safety.

Delaying the implementation of your Safety Management System or not ensuring that your workplace is inherently safe for your employees, is a breach of your business’ explicitly legislated health and safety duty ‘to provide a safe workplace’. No matter how hard it is ‘to provide a safe workplace’, and no matter what your business’ current operational focuses are – your business can’t wait for the storm to pass. Implementation of your Safety Management System and safety practices must start now!

 

To dance in the rain, health and safety needs to be part of the way that your business operates.

 

Given that the management of workplace health and safety is a legislative requirement, it follows that non-compliance can result in prosecution. Health and safety prosecution can be issued against: the business, the business’ management or the business’ workers, for breaches of the legislation. Maximum penalties for breaches of the health and safety legislation (as at July 2016) in Australia are:

  • Corporation / Business: $3,000,000;
  • Officer (i.e. Owner/Executive Manger/Senior Manager): $600,000 & 5 years jail;
  • Workers and other persons $300,000 & 5 years jail.

So, now might be the right time to learn to dance in the rain and move ahead with your workplace health and safety management after all.

To make your health and safety management successful, it must be a prominent part of the way that your business operates. If health and safety is considered an ‘add-on’ to your operations, then safety will likely be an afterthought for your staff and your business’ safety culture will probably be low. The obvious danger with this is that the health and safety of your employees and workplace visitors is not actually protected all that well. And this is what it is all about.

To build health and safety into the core operations of your business, consider the following ideas:

  • Operational meetings and toolbox meetings. Add an item to your agenda that allows your staff to bring attention to hazards in the workplace or raises other health and safety issues for discussion.
  • Audit programs. If your workplace conducts business audits, like financial or stocktake audits, add a handful of ‘health and safety’ criteria into the mix.
  • Procurement processes. Why not manage the risks before purchasing plant or equipment? This will also save your business money by reducing the cost of retrofitting controls in the future.
  • Contractor engagement and management processes. Before employing new staff, you undoubtedly ensure that your candidate is competent, has experience, and fits your business culture, right? So, why wouldn’t you do the same with your contractors? 
  • Workplace design. Similar to procurement of equipment, pre-plan a little. Consider future operational growth, the requirements outlined within the health and safety standard, and optimising workflows. Just because it is the way you do it now, does not mean it’s the most efficient way or that it will be right in the future. With big change, comes big opportunity.

This is not an exhaustive list, however, it provides a few simple initiatives you can implement now to improve health and safety management within your business’ operations.

A “For Dummies” guide on what are Safety Management Systems can be found by following the link. In addition, to support effective implementation, you may want to review the following blogs we have previously posted What are Health and Safety Procedures for information on safety processes you should look to establish in your workplace, and/or Why You Should Transition your Safety Management System to an Online Safety Software System to review options you should consider regarding implementation.

 

An effective way to start the safety dance is for management to start asking questions and initiating health and safety into conversations across your business.

 

Now is the time to get the music started! If you need help choosing your song, please contact us. We would love to guide you on simple ways to energise your Safety Management System.

 

Do Health and Safety Procedures need to be formally documented to be real?

You’ll be relieved to hear that for many businesses, particularly smaller ones, the short answer is ‘no’.

 

Adhering to the health and safety legislation does not actually require procedures to be documented. Rather, it simply requires that these procedures are established and implemented in the workplace.

 

  • It requires your business to have a considered and consistent way of undertaking its operations.
  • It requires your business to communicate this established or official way of undertaking its operations to the relevant parties, whether this be: workers, contractors or visitors.
  • It requires your business to ensure that the identified relevant parties understand this established or official way of undertaking the operations.

 

It does not require formal documentation of this process. It certainly doesn’t require a folder of procedures doing nothing but collecting dust. But it does require some activity and doing on your part.

 

It is more important that your workplace has established a safe system of work, than have a safe system of work written down on a piece of paper that is unrealistic or not followed.

 

Part of this doing that is actually important is keeping accurate records. These are not to be confused with health and safety procedure documentation, that outline the processes you undertake. These records are evidence of the activities you have performed as part of your already established and implemented health and safety procedure. Read a detailed account of the typical workplace health and safety documentation and associated records here.

 

So, the good news is that if you have regular and working communication across all levels of your business you likely already have some health and safety procedures in place without you paying them much thought. You may not have an official document to prove it, but you could already be undertaking some of the fundamentals needed for a strong health and safety compliant workplace. Read more advice here about how to ensure you have a solid approach to health and safety in your workplace.

 

Having said all of this, there are some major benefits to having your health and safety procedure documented, even if you are a small business. Read more about what documenting your procedures can do for your business here. Documented procedures can;

 

  • be an effective way to bring all your employees, managers and works alike, onto the same page when it comes to implementing health and safety procedures.
  • remove confusion and ambiguity about Health and Safety.
  • help ensure that important health and safety tasks are still undertaken even if roles change or staff come and go.
  • open up opportunity for working with other businesses that require evidence of your documented health and safety procedure before engaging with you.

 

Whilst not a legislative requirement, documenting health and safety will encourage explicit consideration of how the business implements health and safety into their operations, the way that they work and with whom they work.

 

If you are unsure if your workplace has any health and safety procedures – documented or not – please contact us. We would love the opportunity to review how you are implementing health and safety across your business, and to help guide you towards getting it working well both for compliance with the legislative requirements and for your business.

 

Safety Management Systems: A “For Dummies” Guide

We are often asked ‘What is a Safety Management System?’ and usually the common follow up question is ‘Why do I need one?

These are good questions for small and large business owners alike to be asking. So, we thought we’d share a short synopsis of exactly what a Safety Management System is, how it works, and why you really should look at implementing one for the success and safety of your workplace.

Essentially, a Safety Management System is process that your business undertakes to manage and mitigate safety risks for the protection of your workers, contractors and visitors within the workplace. When implemented into business operations, this system helps you to continually improve the business’ safety performance and its compliance with health and safety legislation and standards, through sound, risk-based decision-making and practical action.

In doing so, the business establishes a safer working environment for workers, demonstrates strong corporate responsibility and, in turn, builds greater credibility as a mature organisation with whom your existing and prospective clients, employees and stakeholders will be happy to work.

How does a Safety Management System work exactly?

Well, it all starts with your business’ commitment to safety. Your businesses commitment is often demonstrated via a Health and Safety Policy – which is a general plan of intent which guides or influences future decisions around the health and safety of the people in your workplace. From there, comes the planning stage where you determine how you will achieve the intentions outlined by the Health and Safety Policy.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”

 

Once your business has established its health and safety plan, implementation of the plan follows. Implementation is where the health and safety impacts are considered across all aspects of your operations.

To ensure optimal health and safety and operations performance (one should not be independent of the other), implementation is followed by ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and a subsequent review phase. This forms a continuous cycle to ensure ongoing improvement.

Sounds daunting, but it’s actually not difficult to run once you’ve established the health and safety plan itself. Read more detail about how it works here.

 

Join our upcoming webinar. Register Now.

 

What are the benefits for my business?

Much research has shown clear links between strong Safety Management Systems, safe workplaces and long-term business efficiency. But in the interest of keeping this short and to the point, here are the top five reasons why a Safety Management System will benefit your workplace, no matter how small (or large):

  • A Safety Management System will create clarity and comfort for workers around roles, responsibilities and expectations from a safety point of view.
  • It could help save possible loss of revenue caused by workers injuries that lead to medical expenses, replacement labour, insurance claim expenses, workers’ compensation insurance premiums… – this list could continue.
  • It will improve your business’ opportunity to work with other organisations. As the business world becomes more sophisticated in terms of health and safety, it is becoming more and more common for those seeking partnerships and contracts to request evidence of strong health and safety practices, especially a Safety Management System, before they will do business.
  • It will help to guide your business through the process of effectively meeting legal health and safety requirements.
  • It will enhance your business’ reputation with your employees and customers. A business that looks after its people and customers is a business that people want to work for and with.

 

And, health and safety legislation and standards?

Yes, we did mention that and they do exist. The Australia and New Zealand standard (AS/NZS 4801:2001), in alignment with the International Standard (ISO 18001 / ISO 45001), provide guidance on what your workplace should consider when establishing a Safety Management System. It is encouraged that you are familiar with a standard if developing a Safety Management System and it makes good business sense to do so. Read more about The Safety Management System Standard here.

 

Need to know more about health and safety legislation in Australia? Read through; Health and safety legislation – the basic explanation

 

Looking for more detail on Safety Management System’s? Review our past blog: Safety Management Systems: A comprehensive overview.

 

Why you should transition your Safety Management System to an Online Safety System

Safety Management Systems whilst relatively easy to establish, can often be complex beasts to implement. Whilst it is easy for “safety people” to say that health and safety should fit seamlessly into the way that your business operates, the harsh reality is that for many organisations whether they be: large, medium, small, complex or basic – this is not the case.

The difficultly with Safety Management Systems is often compliance. Multiple outputs managed in multiple places. One place manages the training expiry output, another place manages the safety data sheet (SDS) expiry output, an alternative place manages the insurance expiry outputs for not only your business but your contractors (for example workers compensation, public liability and professional indemnity), there is an extra place that manages preventive and routine maintenance, whilst finally there is a different place that manages the scheduled dates for the implementation actions such as workplace inspections, meetings and audit schedules established by what was once an easy to establish Safety Management System. Sound familiar?

 

Safety Software works by allowing multiple outputs to be managed in a single place.

 

Safety Software works by allowing multiple outputs to be managed in a single place. It creates Why you should transition your safey management system to an online safety systemvisibility of tasks that are approaching, whilst allowing access to and reflection on what has been completed. It tames the complex beast by providing a single point of truth.

Think of Safety Software as your shopping list. It reminds, it prompts and it ensures that you achieve 100% of the goal that you have set out on. It then allows you to make that delicious dish that makes Matt Prestons’ cravat stand on end. I digress.

In addition to supporting your business to implement its Safety Management System, you know that the document your business went to great effort and expense to establish, Safety Software will create efficiencies in how your business operates, how you work, what management has visibility on, whilst allowing you to throw out a handful of forms and procedures – win. For example, as we all want a safe work environment, incident management is an obvious place to start.

Following the implementation of Safety Software, incidents are then reported online via a computer or phone (your call), emails will then be automatically sent to management at the exact time that the incident is reported, whilst at that exact time the Incident Register just generates – tick, tick and tick. No need to “find” forms, no need to make “advisory” phone calls or send “advisory” emails when you received the completed incident form; and, no need to “generate” (otherwise known as copy information into) registers – yes, yes, yes. Instead, allowing Safety Software to manage the incident management workflow will give you time to “lead”, rather than “do”, safety in your workplace.

 

Allowing Safety Software to manage the incident management workflow will give you time to “lead”, rather than “do”, safety in your workplace.

 

As workflows are generated by the Safety Software for the incident investigation, no longer is there a requirement for your business to have a lengthy document that advises on: incident close out timeframes; incident investigation requirements; or, document storage – because this is all just “done” within the Safety Software.

 

 

The Safety Software will also ensure that your workplace upholds its legislated duty to manage foreseeable workplace hazards by ensuring incident investigations are completed, as opposed to the form just being filed and forgotten about because the hazard is “too small” or “too hard” to control.

 

A Safety Management System that is a Safety Folder on the shelf, potentially red, potentially green, potentially collecting dust, has limitations in its capacity to improve health and safety at your workplace. If either the “doing” or “management” of safety is the hard part at your workplace, please contact us. We would love to discuss the options available to you to energise your Safety Management System, and tell you some tales about how Safety Software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Effective Safety Management Systems for Business: Practical Advice

All too often we see businesses go to great effort or expense to establish health and safety policies and procedures, then fail to implement them. A safety folder on a shelf, potentially collecting dust, is doing very little to actually improve health and safety of the people in your workplace. It’s the practical implementation of what’s in that folder that will protect your workers.

Whether your organisation is big or small, regional or city-based, or whether your business works in construction, mining, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, health or professional services; here’s some key advice to best ensure your Safety Management System works for you:

 

  1. Get senior management involved

The business owner or executive team must play an active leadership role to encourage the involvement of workers in the Safety Management System. It must be a regular item on the senior management agenda. The health and safety of workers must be a priority. Management must walk the talk.

 

  1. Motivate and educate workers

Make sure the expectations and responsibilities placed on your workers are clear to them and relevant to what they do. Talk often. Ensure workers understand the value of the Safety Management System to them and their colleagues through training, clear direction and delegation of practical tasks. Keep it a regular item on their agenda also.

 

  1. Keep it updated

It just doesn’t work to create the Safety Management System and let it sit on the shelf. Business risks will shift as business activities change or new information comes to hand. Workers come and go. Your Safety Management System must be adjusted regularly over time to ensure it is in line with your business’ current condition. Learn more about a suggested continual improvement cycle here.

 

  1. Integrate it into core business operations

Safety should be integral to the way you do business; it should not be an ‘add-on’. Its value to your business is indisputable; it keeps you and your workers, contractors and clients safe. It will open up opportunities for more business. It elevates the professionalism of your organisation, and so on.

 

So, where possible combine and align health and safety with your overall business practices and established operational processes to make sure it sticks.

 

If the doing is the hard part for you, please contact us. We would love to discuss options available for you to get your Safety Management System working as efficiently as possible for your business and your workers.

 

Still not sure what a Safety Management System is? Review our past blog: Safety Management Systems: A-“For-Dummies” Guide.

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.

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.