Safety in the workplace is the most important feature for employees and employers throughout Australia. It doesn’t really matter how passionate they are about their job or business. The end goal is to make a living and build your income for family and/or retirement. Therefore, to ensure one makes it to retirement workplace safety in Australia is essential.
Throughout this article we will look at the different aspects of safety. Whether it simply respecting others and their right to a safe environment or a more formal legislated responsibility.
Who is responsible for workplace safety
There is a relative simple answer to this, which is “everyone is responsible for safety in the workplace”. It sounds a little simplistic but it’s very true. On a more formal note, relevant national and state based legislation also identifies people who have a little more responsibility than others.
Much of this legislation has evolved from workplace accidents that have occurred causing occupants and employees harm or even death. It is a fact of life that not everyone can be trusted to keep others safe, so this is where legislation is important. Providing a work environment that is safe in line with community expectations.
When a workplace accident is investigated inspectors and other authorities will look at the systems of work and the way they have been implemented in an organisation. This will not only include the way an item was used but the documentation and training that was provided to maintain a safe working environment for all.
It probably should be mentioned here that not all risks can be mitigated, so on occasions risk treatment processes might be put in place to further reduce the risk.
Workplace safety legislation
We have looked at how workplace safety legislation is required to ensure that every one, no matter their attitude towards safety, meets certain standards in line with community expectations.
There may be a number of Acts, Regulations and Australian Standards designed specifically to provide safety in the workplace. Even so, many Acts outside of these provide specific actions by individuals or organisations to ensure risks are minimised. Even though they aren’t provided for the sole purpose of safety.
One example of many, is the Country Fire Authority Act in Victoria Australia. Section 40 indicates that the Chief Officer of the Country Fire Authority can declare a period of total fire ban. One aspect of this is about keeping the community relatively safe from fire. Mitigating the risk of a fire starting due to human activity in the Country Area of Victoria.
Of course, this legislation doesn’t mitigate the risk completely but it provides a mechanism of enforcement for those that flout the legislation and place the general community at risk.
What does workplace safety mean to you?
We spoke about the moral responsibility of us all in relation to safety. As well as how legislation is helping to keep us safe from individuals and companies whose culture creates negative outcomes.
The real question one should ask is “what are my ideas and commitment to safety”. Too often employers and employees use safety concerns, real or malicious, to force others to comply with their thoughts and ideas.
Where logic and risk management processes are used appropriately as a guide in any given situation. One can make informed decisions on issues around safety. But, this requires a real commitment and often good self discipline.
Where research or education hasn’t guided a decision it is possible that productivity in a given workplace may be compromised. Thus placing many stresses on the functioning of a business. The potential outcome could be the closure and potential job losses.
Rules for workplace safety
One of the real positive outcomes of a good safety culture is that it may promote success on many levels. Because every individual is different we require systems and processes to guide us in relation to safety. To use the term “rules for the workplace” seems a little draconian, but really that’s what systems and processes are about.
They are a set of rules that provide guidance. So you can be assured that others won’t take actions that will place you in harm’s way. Again providing a mechanism for enforcement for those that don’t wish to comply. It is often very hard to see all perspectives during times of investigation or analysis within a given work environment. This is where health and safety specialists can be contracted to ensure that the risk being mitigated, is at a level (likelihood vs consequence) as expected by the community.
Who benefits most from workplace safety regulations
Those that benefit most from workplace regulations, codes of practice, Australian Standards etc is the community. Every injury, accident or death has a consequence, whether simply taking an employee from their normal employment activities or requirement to seek medical advice or services. One accident might have quite a small impact, but many together can affect the lifestyle of all the community.
Accidents which result in death or disability have a tenfold effect. Not only on the business and other workers within that business, but the family of the deceased. Emergency workers will also be impacted depending on the situation. Therefore, this in turn costs the community in both mental health issues and significant monetary cost.
How to improve workplace safety
We have looked at many things that reduce the level of safety in the workplace. So now let’s look at some of the actions we can take to improve workplace safety. The first and most important aspect is workplace training and education.
Some training will be accredited and others may simply be conducted by supervisors and others in the workplace with appropriate knowledge. Significant time allocated to training helps to build a positive workplace safety culture. It also provides an ability to stop misconceptions in their tracks and redirect such things by educating the individual or group. Such actions can increase productivity and work to empower employees and employers.
We also tend to place a great deal of significance on the experience of employees. Experience is an important part of safety but it must be the right experience. For example, a firefighter who has been taught the incorrect method of fire attack, may get away with such actions many times only to be injured or killed after many years of service. If they have passed on this incorrect activity then experience becomes a dangerous concept. This is why qualifications, mentoring and experience must be viewed as a single concept.
Workplace safety has many linkages from legislation to education and qualifications. Bringing them all together in both a manner that combines history and the outcomes that have driven changes to the way safety is applied in the workplace. The benefits will be many and promote workplace safety in Australia.