- Making Assumptions About Safety
It is obvious that some workplaces are inherently ‘riskier’ than others. An office building is less likely to have significant hazards as compared to a construction site.
However, this doesn’t mean that serious safety incidents cannot occur in an office environment. Employers are required to turn their mind to any potential risks to health and safety arising from the conduct of their business and undertaking. Even if an office injury is unlikely to give rise to a WorkSafe investigation/prosecution, workers compensation claims which may result, can have a significant impact in terms of productivity, absenteeism and premium.
Similarly, a workplace with a perfect safety record doesn’t necessarily mean that the workplace is completely safe. A hazard can be present in a workplace for years, even decades, before someone gets hurt. The key duty of employers is to identify and address those risks before they result in injury – or worse.
- Failing to Address Psychological Safety
Physical safety is important, and it is the most visible form of injury. However, work health and safety laws protect both the physical and psychological safety of employees. Indeed, research conducted by Beyond Blue indicates that 91% of workers believe mental health in the workplace is important compared to 88% for physical health.
While psychological safety can be more subtle and complex to address, it cannot be overlooked.
Ultimately, ensuring a psychologically safe workplace requires commitment from the top down, and, like any safety matters, needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis.
Organisations ideally need to take a holistic approach to ensuring psychological safety, including by:
- Training employees regarding appropriate workplace conduct, as well as educating managers to conduct reasonable management action
- Educating managers in how to recognise the early signs of mental health problems and how to address this with team members
- Having mental health first aiders and providing access to EAP.
- Becoming Complacent
Some businesses only review their safety systems once every few years, or worse, only after an incident has occurred.
Complacency about workplace safety not only serves to increase the likelihood of incidents occurring; it promotes a cavalier approach to safety in the broader the workforce.
Safety practices in a workplace need to be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis, and employers should always be looking for opportunities to improve. Similarly, employees with ongoing health issues, such as old injuries or known disabilities, should be monitored to ensure they can continue to fulfill the inherent requirements of their role safely, without risk of an exacerbation of their condition.
Ultimately, if someone is injured (or worse) in the workplace, safety would become a number one priority immediately. Prevention is always better than the cure – take action today to ensure a safe and productive workplace.
If you wish to receive more information on this topic, HR Legal is conducting Workplace Health and Safety Essentials seminars and webinar this month which you can register for by clicking here.