OHS procedures

What on earth is an Issue Resolution Process?

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

Well, these 4 things:

 

1. Report & Record

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

 

2. Review & Assess

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

 

3. Ways to Escalate

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

 

4. Follow up & Close Out

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

 

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

 

 

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

Does my business need a Safety Management System?

Our short answer is: yes! Every business needs an effective Health and Safety Management System because every business has people that need to be protected!

 

But don’t worry – your Health and Safety Management System doesn’t have to be complex, and it doesn’t have to be costly. Put simply, a Health and Safety Management System is a systematic approach to keeping your health and safety tasks in check.

 

What the health and safety consultants generally won’t tell you, is that the legislation doesn’t stipulate that a business’s Health and Safety Management System has to be documented. If your workers are clear on your internal health and safety processes, this is sufficient.

 

 

That said, as businesses grow, and there are more people at the table, relying on a more “verbal” Health and Safety Management System can be challenging to implement.

 

It becomes more difficult for all of your staff to have a uniform understanding of your system and more difficult to demonstrate what compliance measures you’ve been taking to the regulator, if there was ever a need.

 

Think back to the effectiveness of Chinese whispers!

 

So, if you are not 100% confident that your health and safety message will be the same at the end, as it was at the start – this is when you should start to consider formally documenting your approaches and processes.

 

 

 

 

Ready to get started? Well, here are 5 critical components for you to consider as you start to set up your Health and Safety Management System:

 

1. Management endorsement.

If management has a low focus on health and safety, so too will everyone else. Start at the top – seriously. You can’t get out of this one if you want to make a safe workplace. What will you commit to and support? Think resourcing, think budget, think actions.

 

2. Planning. 

Ensure hazards arising from work activities are identified so that risks can be assessed and then controlled. This is critical. Get your people involved in this – use weekly meetings to ask about possible risks. Need help? Check this tool out. Just type in your industry and see exactly what hazards you need to look out for.

 

3. Implementation.

Develop a plan to improve things and allocate components of it out to your people. You need to ensure that what you say, is what you do. Everyone has a role to play! Meeting reminders from a software system like Safety Champion can do wonders to make sure everything gets done and everyone is involved!

 

Join one of our upcoming webinars.

 

4. Measurement and evaluation. 

Track what you’ve done. Are you doing what you said you’d do in the beginning?

 

5. Review and improvement. 

Review to continually improve your Health and Safety Management System. Make sure you regularly look at your results and take preventative and/or corrective action to continually improve things. Aim to be better!

 

 

So, yes, you need a system but don’t get too bogged down.

 

Basically, your Health and Safety Management System is simply ‘what you actually do’ to manage foreseeable and unforeseeable hazards, to prevent incidents and injuries, and to minimise risks. Focus on how you will do all those health and safety tasks and how you will sustain the implementation of your system, and your off to a good start.

 

Even better, document it and communicate it well to all your people – often – for even better results. Good luck!

 

Top tips for getting your people behind health and safety…

Our clients often tell us that in the past they have paid quite big money to have fancy OHS policies and practices created for their business. But they’ve also told us that after they’ve forked out the cash, absolutely nothing has changed on the health and safety front. Frustratingly they tell us, their people still don’t understand what they need to do and when, and that there are hazards everywhere you look and things that they feel are preventable continue to go wrong.

 

So, what’s happening here? Well the truth is that those OHS policies and practices don’t implement themselves.

 

You may have the OHS paperwork in place, but it doesn’t make the people in your workplace any safer if no one is implementing it all.

So, here are our top tips to get your people on board with health and safety;

 

  1. Put health and safety on the agenda!

It can be as simple as that – add health and safety line items to your next all staff or team meeting to keep everyone aware of what you are doing to make your workplace safer. Don’t create a separate meeting, stack it on to something existing so your workers don’t feel they have another meeting to attend. Ask people for their input (and then listen) – what needs to be addressed, does everyone know who the fire warden is, etc.

 

  1. Make health and safety responsibilities part of your employees position description

When you are writing your position descriptions, or performance reviewing staff – try adding relevant health and safety line items to their role. Nothing complicated – it will however ensure that your people know they have a role to play in safety is key to getting it all to work.

 

  1. Create OHS / WHS-specific KPIs

We love this one! If you really want your health and safety standards to sing, integrate it into your business strategy. Apply health and safety specific KPIs to your team or staff member responsibilities. Nothing gets people to do something, like having clear targets that must be achieved by a specific deadline! We would love to workshop KPI ideas with you!

 

  1. Implement a safety software system

Some may view this as cheeky, but it is totally true! If you implement an easy-to-use OHS software system that comes equipped with auto reminders, document control, easy reporting and a simple dashboard, your staff will thank you for it. It makes it easier for them – and therefore they are much more likely to do it! Safety Champion for example is a small investment, say less than a coffee a day, for a lotta gain.

 

 

So, that’s it from us – give one or more of these things a shot. Consider Tip 4 over that coffee tomorrow! They really will start to do wonders and help you to make your people safer, healthier and happier at work!

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. 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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.

 

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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.