“Keeping employees safe at work is management's number one priority”
True for your workplace?
It should be true. Employees are the lifeblood of your workplace without them who would do the work and keep the money flowing. Unfortunately if your workplace doesn’t have a trained Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) representative then it’s most likely untrue. You may be breaking OH & S laws.
Australia has regulations which require businesses to implement OH&S systems to help keep working people safe, but compliance alone isn’t enough. Compliance doesn’t mean that a business has a working OH&S system. It just means the frame work is in place. Key personnel and an educated workforce is required to create a working OH&S system. A system with enough “meat on its bones” to protect the workforce and businesses reputation.
A critical step for a safe workplace shows how staff experience can be used to quickly identify issues and implement workable solutions. It says that the best OH&S systems leverage staff knowledge and intimate understanding of the workplace to build a better safety system. By talking and working with staff, management become aware of issues and devise solutions together. In turn staff see their contributions making the workplace safer. Making it easier for them to embrace workplace safety practises and accept the necessary changes that follow.
Unfortunately Staff and management don’t innately understand what a compliant OH&S system is or how to implement one, after all it’s a set of regulations devised by lawyers and experts as a general guide and doesn’t go into specifics. Just reading the regulations will not mean management and staff know how to set up a working OH&S system or how to maintain one. Those skills come through training and experience.
Could you look at the hazard control infographic below and set your workplace up with a compliant hazard control program tomorrow? Sure you may be able to make a good start and identify some of the hazards and assess which are the highest risk but what happens after that? What actually makes a quality OH&S system work and how does it keep staff happy and safe?
Compliance with current OH&S regulations is not trivial and a level of understanding is required to implement a compliant OH&S System at your work. For this reason workplaces often engage a consultant service to establish the framework required by the regulations.
Once the framework is in place it is your staff’s responsibility to maintain the system and make sure it works for all employees and grows with the business. Unfortunately reading the regulations won’t be sufficient for the task either. Some in house specific knowledge will be required. Someone will need training on the OH&S system and the regulations so they can improve and maintain the workplaces’ unique system. Also, an employee should be chosen as a Health and Safety Representative to liaise between staff and management - it’s part of the regulations but it make sense to have a representative even if one is not required.
A Health and Safety Representative (HSR) came and completed their 5 day training with Unity Training Services, upon returning to work they identified an hazard in the workplace that they didn’t realise was a hazard before attending the training. The hazard being a cluttered workspace, there was boxes on the floor, under desks and in hallways. Previously people had mentioned it was untidy, but no-one understood the process of correcting this issue, nearly everyone agreed something had to be done. The HSR, brought it to the attention of the Safety committee at their next meeting, as the HSR had already did a bit of an investigation to see why this was a hazard, they were able to take this information to the meeting, demonstrating through the Act and Regulations why this was a health and safety issue, they was also able to do a risk assessment of this and offer a couple of different ways the hazard could be controlled, with minimal cost incurred to the employer. The committee agreed that this was an issue and that the control measures were reasonable to be implemented. As the HR Manager was also on the committee it was approved there and then to put in place some shelving in an blocked off area that could be used for storage.
Trained staff equates to a higher quality system and a safer work environment. In turn a safer work environment means happier staff, improved productivity and a better reputation for the workplace. Training is the key and since safety is an everyday consideration simply engaging a consultant periodically to assess changes in the workplace and maintain the OH&S system isn’t going to be enough, issues can arise any time.
Educated staff and a trained Workforce representative with site specific operational knowledge will allow the workplace to adapt faster to new issues and provide solutions which not only conforms to the regulations but also fit in with workplace practices.
Unity training offers several courses in workplace health and safety but it's our Health and Safety Rep course that will make your own workplace health and safety system perform that way it should.
During the five day course a member or selection of your staff will:
- Learn the responsibilities of the employer, employees and other persons in regards to the health and safety of people in the workplace
- How to use the Act and Regulations to assist with gaining information about the potential hazards in the workplace
- Learn how to do an accident investigations by looking at what caused the accident and what can be done to help prevent it happening again
- How to identify the different types of hazards that may happen in their workplace and how to report the hazards
- How to do a risk assessment on those hazards identified, once this is done they will be able to put the adequate control measures in place to minimise the risk of the hazard
- Learn effective ways to communicate with both their employer and other employees about health and safety issues in their workplace
- Learn how to use negotiation skills at health and safety meetings
- Understand different types of ways we can communicate with others about the health and safety issues in the workplace
- How do you be an effective member of the health and safety committee, and to work collaboratively with others to ensure a safer workplace
The training is very practical and tailored to the participants own workplace needs while still covering the basic required from compliance. The vast array of experience offered by our trainer means students walk away from the course well prepared to implement and maintain a working OH&S system in your business.
Denise Mercer has been the Senior Trainer and Manager for Unity Training Services since 2012. She holds Diploma's in work health and safety and management and is Certificate IV qualified across a wide range of occupations including warehousing, asset maintenance and mental health.
Prior to joining Unity Training Services, Denise was an experienced Prison Officer and Health and Safety Representative in the prison system then worked professionally as a health and safety trainer.