Work-related injuries and illness are a big problem in Australia, costing the economy more than $60billion a year, according to statistics from Safe Work Australia.
“Inadequate risk plans can increase the rate of workplace injuries, and are mostly the result of a lack of resources and expertise,” Ray Bedson, OHS trainer at SAI Global, said. “Employers can’t ignore the risks to their employees - a shoulder injury can cost an organisation $400,000 in accident compensation and prosecution costs, and a back injury over $1million.”
Bedson compiled seven steps he feels can reduce workplace risks. He suggests employers:
- Commit to risk plans. All involved in the organisation must be on board “long term” for initiatives to function.
- Ask employees to recall previous injuries and incidents, and discuss what happened. Foster a culture in which employees can be open about their concerns, allowing managers to identify problems before they manifest. This should be carried out at least monthly, with rounds of the office made weekly.
- Encourage employees to note down or otherwise record all issues and hazards. Once something is documented, it is easier to identify and address, and harder to ignore.
- Use a Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment & Control (HIRAC) format to prioritise what risks are of greatest concern, taking into consideration the likelihood of incident and its potential consequences. “HIRAC or Risk Assessment forms are available from your industry association or statutory Work Safe or Work Cover authority, and are best filled out by HR, safety or OHS coordinators, with the assistance of safety representatives who have a bit of knowledge,” Bedson advised.
- Consult employees of your solutions. This will ensure they are aware of what actions they may need to take if problems continue to arise.
- As with any policy or initiative, review whatever processes or controls you have put into place monthly, measuring them against the amount of incidents. You may find your plan has been effective in eliminating incidents altogether, or it may need re-thinking.
- Of paramount importance is to train new employees. “Awareness is the first step in controlling hazards, employees who are new to the workplace, inexperienced or untrained are particularly at risk. Investing in their training and development can do more than just protect your business financially and legally - it can save their life,” Bedson said.
Ultimately, a catch-all plan may not exist. However, the importance of simplifying and streamlining plans and procedures is crucial. Bedson warned that overly detailed plans and confusing forms can discourage use, and cause employees to eventually begin ignoring hazards.