5 ways to be proactive about safety
By Andrew Hobbs
BUILDING a workplace that is proactive about safety management can be difficult – due to the day-to-day pressures of work, while other employers find that they lack sufficient control over safety management.
Some managers and supervisors find that workers come to them repeatedly with one problem after another, assuming that by doing so they have offloaded responsibility to someone else.
This October, National Safe Work Month, workplaces around Australia are being encouraged to commit to improving safety in their workplaces and to share that know-how with their peers.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Safe Work Australia chair Diane Smith-Gander said work-related disease and injury cost the community $61.8 billion every year.
“In other words, poor work health and safety costs $5,000 per worker each year and equates to 4.1 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product. This doesn’t even touch on the immeasurable cost of grief and trauma to workers and their families,” she said.
The team at YourSafetyMentor.com offers the following advice about what you might do to create a workplace that identifies and fixes issues before incidents occur?
- Talk about safety
Improvements are best made when everyone at your workplace is invested in them. At every practical opportunity, discuss how daily work tasks and processes are likely to affect health and safety.
Encourage an open dialogue about your safe operating procedures. Often, businesses don’t even consider whether there is a better way to do something or ask their workers whether a task is always being done correctly. Consulting with the people carrying out the work on a daily basis is the best way to determine how to reduce the risks.
If you need a reminder to talk about safety issues, then schedule 5–10 minutes into every team meeting. Come to the meeting with questions or topics to discuss, rather than asking open-ended questions such as, “Has anyone got any safety issues?”
A specific question regarding a work activity or area will encourage everyone to get involved and work together to come up with some practical, efficient and workable solutions.
Provide an avenue for your workers to respectfully question what has been included in your written policies and procedures.
- Conduct workplace inspections
Use workplace inspections to determine what could potentially cause harm. If any issues are identified, act on them.
Remember, inspections are not just about ticking boxes; their purpose is to help you discover where you can improve on safety in your workplace.
YourSafetyMentor.com says to follow these tips when conducting inspections:
- focus on a different work area or activity each time you conduct an inspection;
- question the way the business does things – just because it’s always been done a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s the best or safest way;
- be nimble and move with the times – don’t expect everything to stay the same; and
- keep in mind there’s always a better way you can approach an activity, task or process.
- Plan for safety
Schedule a meeting with key managers and workers to establish a couple of clear safety objectives for your team. Remember, without a plan in place it’s difficult to implement actions or solutions.
If you are used to simply reacting all the time rather than planning, it may take a change in thinking and perspective to focus on some key safety goals.
And remember, just because you have a plan, it doesn’t mean you have no flexibility. If your plan doesn’t turn out to be as efficient or effective as expected, re-evaluate where you want to go and put a new plan in place.
- Think outside the box
You often need to look outside the traditional avenues to come up with effective solutions to safety issues.
If you find that your workers aren’t committed to following the safety processes you have in place, find out why this is and come up with an innovative way to remedy the issue.
- Learn from mistakes
If you experiment with safety initiatives and they fail, consider why this happened so you can improve next time. Grasp learning opportunities and refocus on the outcomes you want to achieve.
Helping develop your safety plan
They say that knowledge is power – and while widespread consultation among your workforce will provide you with invaluable information in developing your safety plan, it is also important to look further afield.
Having a full understanding of your rights and obligations under the law will enable you plan for visitors to your workplace and to build on the roles your employees will play in these plans.
From the experts behind the Health & Safety Handbook, the Bulletin brings you the latest work health and safety news, legal updates, case law and practical advice straight to your inbox every week.