While the connections between business success and a safe work culture are known, why does HR often struggle to put this into practice?
The idea that business success is directly linked to good work health and safety is not new, but it’s one that some businesses struggle to put into practice. This is because business productivity is typically measured only by easy-to-quantify economic results like the number of items produced, or the quality of services provided, a company’s buildings, plant and equipment, the skills of its workforce, or the value of its contracts.
These measures of success are great, but they don’t take into account two things: the cost of poor work health and safety, and the return on investment of good work health and safety.
While safety is a responsibility of all workers at all levels, if you own a business, or manage a business, it’s important for you to consider safety as both a worker and as a leader.
Leadership drives culture and sets the values expected in a workforce. The processes and policies safety leaders put in place, and their personal adherence to them will support or undermine the safety culture, and organisations that are seen as safety leaders will always go beyond the minimum compliance with legislation.
Small business owners, because they are close to their workers, are in a good position to exert a positive influence on safety through leadership.
Consider the safety culture in your business. Do you know how many near misses happen? Do you hear about them as quickly as you hear about actual incidents? Can your people raise safety concerns without fear, discrimination or ridicule?
The more we talk about work health and safety, the more it becomes a normal part of our conversation and every day work life. Can you normalise the conversation, so more of the near misses are reported, and you can work to prevent future injury?
Lead by example
Some practical things managers can do to create a strong safety culture include:
- Lead by example, let staff see that you take work health and safety seriously and are happy to discuss it, at any time.
- Know the current regulations for your business and make sure you follow them.
- Provide training for new staff and refresher training for existing staff.
- Use the safest and most up-to-date equipment available for your industry.
- Most importantly, make the conversation a positive discussion about protecting your people every day.
Resources for business
To help businesses to get involved and build awareness in the workplace, Safe Work Australia have developed a National Safe Work Month resource kit for businesses. The kit includes posters, workplace activity ideas, industry safety statistics, and shareable content for social media or internal messaging.
Safe Work Australia also offers a Workplace Participation Reward to encourage businesses to think of new and creative ways to build awareness of health and safety during National Safe Work Month. Through the Reward, businesses can win a prize worth $5000 and the opportunity to showcase their safety story nationally.
This October, think about the health and safety aspects that need attention in your workplace and dedicate some time to resolving them. Have a conversation, share stories and raise awareness, because talking about safety can save lives.