How to identify high OHS risk workers

by 29 Sep 2010

Internal politics within organisations can dramatically affect OHS adoption rates and have significant legal and bottom line implications, according to an expert in employment safety assessments.

“I can cite several examples where these types of things can happen,” said John Richards, CEO of online employment assessment provider Onetest.

“We’re close to full employment in Australia, so it’s tough to get enough workers in some areas such as mining. Filling certain positions is difficult there so there’s pressure to take anyone.

“So you might identify a potential recruit as being unsafe, but a line manager can say ‘I don’t care, just give me the body.’ So in some cases, you cannot adequately enforce appropriate policies.”

Richards, who is speaking at the upcoming Safety Conference in Sydney, said directors and executives have a fiduciary responsibility to actively promote and enforce good OHS policies in their companies.

Onetest recently released a whitepaper which pointed to the importance of having senior managers and boards, in particular, educated about the effectiveness of pre-employment safety assessments.

The whitepaper, Predicting Who Will Cause Workplace Safety Incidents, noted that organisations committed to reducing safety incidents should assess all recruits and subcontractors coming onto their premises for safety risk.

Furthermore, organisations should refuse to hire “high risk” people (the bottom 20 per cent) or allow them onsite if they’re sub-contractors, educate line managers to understand that “high risk” people will potentially hurt themselves and their workmates, and adhere to hiring policies – even when under hiring pressure.

“For example, we’ve been dealing with a major supplier of industrial labour, and where there’s an injury, they estimate that each incident costs that organisation $150,000,” said Richards.

However, by using assessments to identify high risk workers, he said there could be up to an 80 per cent reduction in incidents.

Richards also noted that many OHS professionals say “we simply can’t afford it” as a result of budgetary constraints, “but no-one is looking at the cost-benefit and the return on investment that can be achieved by using these tests appropriately”, he said.

Richards will be among 70 speakers at The Safety Conference presented by the Safety Institute of Australia at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, from 26-28 October. For more information, email safety@aec.net.au, visit www.thesafetyshow.com or call 03 9654 773.

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