Whether you’re in construction, mining, manufacturing or healthcare, all industries know the value of a safe and healthy workplace. Few things – if anything – matter more than a work environment where every employee feels like their well-being is considered a high priority by their employer.
Unfortunately, the truth is that creating a safe workplace is easier said than done – especially without the right work practices in place. Consequently, many businesses are at risk of violating Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regulations. Even worse, they may be putting people at risk.
Here, we’ll guide you through the ins and outs of WHS practices, why they’re important and what you need to know to improve the health and safety of every worker in your company.
Workplace Health and Safety: What is it?
Before you can effectively enhance WHS practices in your business, you need to understand exactly what WHS is all about. Let’s break it down:
Workplace Health and Safety, as defined by the Australian government, refers to the management of risks to the health and safety of everyone in your work environment, including customers, visitors and suppliers. Simply put, WHS is about maintaining a safe workplace and eliminating or minimising anything that could put someone’s wellbeing at risk.
Achieving this goal comes down to a few key focus areas. These pillars include:
- Risk/hazard identification: Spotting a WHS issue that could jeopardise workplace safety.
- Risk/hazard assessment: Analysing that safety issue and the likelihood it could cause harm.
- Risk/hazard mitigation: Performing a procedure to eliminate the potential hazard.
- Environmental impact: Taking appropriate steps to reduce your business’ negative impact on the environment.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WHS IN THE WORKPLACE
Why is WHS important in the workplace? In short, WHS matters because it’s your legal responsibility.
It’s the expectation of the Australian government that business owners maintain a safe and healthy workplace. To effectively do that, you need to know exactly what’s required of you and your employees.
The Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) of 2011 – developed by Safe Work Australia, the governing agency that maintains (but doesn’t enforce) WHS laws – outlines the WHS obligations that you and your workforce are expected to comply with on a regular basis.
Here’s what WHS legislation requires from both the employer and employee.
WHS obligations of the business owner:
- Provide a safe work environment.
- Provide and maintain safe machinery and equipment.
- Provide safe ways of working.
- Ensure machinery, structures and substances are used, handled and stored safely.
- Provide and maintain adequate facilities.
- Provide safety training, information, instruction and supervision.
- Monitor the health of workers and conditions of the workplace.
WHS obligations of the worker:
- Take care of their own health and safety.
- Take care not to do anything that might put others at risk.
- Follow WHS training and instruction.
- Follow the employer’s WHS policy and procedure.
Although the particular WHS laws of each state differ slightly, the consequences of non-compliance can be extremely costly to your business. If you’re found to be in violation of WHS legislation you could be forced to pay significant non-compliance fees. For example, the maximum penalty for WHS noncompliance in Queensland is $10 million, not to mention the cost of legal liabilities in the event of workplace injury.
Most significantly, a poor safety performance puts the well-being of your employees at risk. There’s no price you can put on the health and safety of your workforce.
Barriers that challenge WHS in the workplace
Successfully complying with WHS regulations is no simple task, especially without the proper work practices in place. Here are some of the most pressing issues you may encounter when managing WHS in your business:
- Lack of oversight: Visibility is key when it comes to spotting workplace hazards and preventing injury. Without proper oversight in your work environment, you may miss an underlying WHS issue.
- Paperwork: If you’re relying on paper-based recordkeeping systems, WHS legislation becomes complicated. You and your safety officers might be overloaded with paperwork – important files that could just as easily go missing.
- Manual processes: Reporting WHS incidents by hand is slow, tedious and prone to human error. These are critical flaws that could jeopardise risk mitigation.
- Pressure: When demand reaches its peak, it’s easy to let WHS practices fall by the wayside while you focus on staying productive.
- Lack of training: If you aren’t providing safety training to your workforce, you aren’t empowering them to spot a potential hazard and perform at their safest.
- Complexities of regulation: Regulations change. If you aren’t vigilant, you may miss an important amendment to the WHS Act that impacts your business.
The benefits of digital WHS on workplace safety
Pen-and-paper methods are fast becoming outdated as an effective way of managing WHS, as they leave much room for human and administrative errors. By digitising your WHS practices with a cloud-based solution, you can effectively solve many of the challenges outlined above.
A digital WHS platform is a tool for managing WHS in your workplace in the most efficient way possible. With digitised WHS management, you stand to gain a number of benefits:
- Simplified compliance: One user-friendly system makes navigating changing standards easy.
- Increased visibility: Onsite data capture allows you to take an accurate look at your operations and assess risk in real time.
- Increased productivity: Fewer accidents and injuries mean you have more time to focus on the tasks at hand. Likewise, WHS management systems drive faster return to work, lower absenteeism rates and improved employee engagement.
- Fewer liabilities: Proactively mitigating workplace hazards decreases your exposure to risk.
- Lower carbon footprint: With less reliance on paper, you effectively reduce your impact on the environment.
BEST PRACTICES FOR MANAGING WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY
Managing the health and safety of your workplace is one of the most difficult responsibilities you have as a business owner. But managing it well? That’s even harder.
To make the job a little easier, it’s important to follow a few best practices:
- Have a written WHS policy.
- Have an adequate training programme.
- Foster a culture of safety leadership from top to bottom.
- Leverage a digital WHS solution.
Digitising your WHS processes is an important part of getting ahead of potential hazards in the workplace. Even more importantly, it’s how you prevent them.
As a trusted software provider with over 20 years of experience in the safety industry, we know the significance of simplifying WHS. Our cloud-based end-to-end health and safety management solution is tailored to your needs regardless of industry.
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