Refocusing after holiday break

By Michael Selinger on January 11th, 2018
  1. Risk Management
  2. Chain of Responsibility


AS WE slowly make our way back to work this month after the holiday season, it is important to remember to stay vigilant on safety from the moment you enter the workplace.

Experience has shown that when staff come back from a break, while well rested, they are often also less careful in their work processes for a period of time.

It is critical that you take steps to bring your staff together and refocus their attention on the importance of being alert to danger during work and give them a refresher on the processes they will be undertaking.

I am always reminded of an incident from a number of years ago that highlights the risk of inattention at this time of the year.

The matter involved the general manager of a manufacturing plant who, shortly after the business re-opened in the new year, walked in front of a speeding forklift without pausing to stop to look for any traffic in the area.

The business could have taken better steps to ensure that separation of pedestrians and mobile plant was effectively implemented, but the lack of attention from a senior manager who was aware of the operation of mobile plant in the area also played a role.

The same incident could equally happen to any worker who, after a period off work, may be feeling relaxed and complacent about hazards that would have otherwise been detected and avoided by them.

Performing with a worker deficit

The start of the year can also be challenging as there usually is a staggered return of the full complement of workers to the business, with some taking longer leave than others.

This situation can mean that some workers are stretched to cover those workers who are still absent, a factor that can also lead to increased risk of injury. It also has the effect of making it practically difficult to hold a single event, like a toolbox talk or a group meeting, to reintroduce everyone back into the work regime. If that is the case, individual focus on those returning to work may be needed.

So, while we should all appreciate that the break has refreshed us, it is important to acknowledge that we are also very susceptible to injury in this period.

Some steps you can consider implementing to manage this situation include:

  • arranging a group meeting, morning tea or toolbox talk with as many of your workers as possible to remind them specifically of the safety processes your organisation has in place, for example, the need for a Take 5, or Job Safety Analysis;
  • get workers to take a short online induction to get them thinking about the organisation’s processes;
  • if practicable, have more senior supervisors undertake additional or more involved supervision of work processes throughout the period; and
  • have workers view a safety video when they first log in to their work station, or include it as part of the group meeting.

M. Sellinger signature
Michael Selinger
Health & Safety Handbook

Stepping up to supervise

As Michael says, we all need a reminder now and then of the things we should be looking out for, particularly when our ordinary work processes change when certain people are absent.

In Chapter S5 Supervision of Safe Work in the Health & Safety Handbook (of which Michael is the Editor-in-Chief), he writes that organisations need to be vigilant about the levels of supervision they provide to workers and to ensure that it keeps up with the changing needs of the company.

Further information, about how to determine the levels of supervision required and what to do when a supervisor is absent can be found in the chapter, one of more than 70 prepared by Michael and the health and safety legal team at Holding Redlich.

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