How businesses are prioritizing workplace health and safety

How businesses are prioritizing workplace health and safety

2016 National Safe Work Month is coming up this October, reminding us how far Australia has come with people becoming more aware of the importance of workplace health and safety. But it's also to remind us how far we still have to go considering the large costs, both human and financial, that come from bad workplace practises.

Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the following three ways to make the workplace more healthy and safe:

  • Take the work environment into consideration when assessing a problem
  • Be more industry-specific when creating policies,
  • Focus on employees' health as a long-term investment

The problem

Workplace injuries cost the Australian economy more than $60 billion annually, according to Dr. Edwards from QUT Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety. In Queensland alone, the transport, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture industries make up about 70 per cent of work related fatalities.

There are still a large number of injuries and fatalities in the Australian workplace. x 0 0 0 14107803 800There are still a large number of injuries and fatalities in the Australian workplace.

It's because of shocking statistics like these that businesses are catching on to the importance of changing the way they go about workplace health and safety training. Here are a few ways companies are approaching this shift:

1) Viewing dangers in the context of the work environment

A change in attitudes may remedy some of these problems. Top thinkers like Sidney Dekker of Griffith University in Queensland have been changing attitudes towards work health and safety. He explains how safety regulators have the choice to either blame people or the business environment they work in. If people can start to see how it is the organisational environment that is more of the problem than the people, then they can fix the organisational shortcomings so that people will make less errors. 

Safe work Australia cites Zemek Engineering, a provider of services for mining companies and heavy industry, as an example of a business that made an effective transition to improving organisational structures. They created the dipper handle rotation system after repeatedly finding that staff were at risk when working on electrical shovel dipper handles.

This change in equipment has made the workplace safer in a number of ways, such as reducing the probability of workers getting hurt by falling and moving objects and decreasing the number of fumes people are exposed to.

2) Changing to more industry-specific regulations

Incident reports in the vehicle industry is an example of an industry specific safety measure. x 0 0 0 14099721 800Incident reports in the vehicle industry is an example of an industry specific safety measure.

Industry specific knowledge is important when it comes to safety regulations.

Zemek also demonstrates how companies need to make their workplace health and safety policies more industry-specific. Dr. Edwards explains how this takes expertise in a specific industry to determine what organisational structures need to be changed. LMIT offers an Advanced Diploma of Work Health and Safety that is ideal for someone looking to hone their skills in their particular industry.

Dr. Edwards gives the example of the vehicle industry as a success story for industry specific regulations. The industry customised its policy by providing incident reports to heavy vehicle drivers of crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving other drivers. What was the result? Compliance with road rules and safety measures increased due to targeted solutions for a known problem in the industry.

2) Having a plus one policy: Being more proactive in guaranteeing employees' long-term health 

Businesses are also trying to be more proactive in guaranteeing employees' safety rather than just eliminating risks.

Ernest Young Australia's Health, Safety and Environment Partner, Andi Csontos, has been a leader in the safety industry by pushing beyond the traditional, preventative measures to a more positive approach of proactively making employees more healthy. EY explains three different ways to enhance workplace health and safety, which include "minus one," "zero" and "plus one": 

  • Minus one is about minimising negative impacts on employees to prevent financial harm to the business.
  • Zero harm is the traditional way that is most preventative and aims for zero illness and injury, and some feel good initiatives.
  • Plus one is actively seeking ways to make safety part of the business agenda rather than just a risk to mitigate.

Focus on healthy employees in the long term rather than just preventing danger in the short term.

Many companies in Australia are currently in transition from zero harm to plus one (with minus one being the most outdated way). EY's partner Andi Csontos has a plus one policy because it makes that extra effort to ensure that employees don't just go home in the same state that they arrived, but that they also go home better than when they arrived.

For instance, EY is working with an Australian government client to improve long-term mental health of employees. This involves talking to the employees and finding out how they feel their mental health could be helped in the workplace. Helping employees to be mentally healthy is better for the long term rather than just preventing danger in the short term.

The days of viewing people as risks to control without environmental context are numbered. LMIT has a Diploma of Work Health and Safety that can give you the starting skills you need to bring a company into the new era of creating workplace well-being in the long term.

Published by: LMIT