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6 Safety tips for small businesses.

6 Safety tips for small businesses.

We are going to adopt a method we call “Liaise”

  1. Listen
  2. Information
  3. Act
  4. Improvement
  5. Support
  6. Empower

Starting at the top “Listen” . If your staff is uneasy or frustrated, there’s normally a good reason. Invariably it’s to do with something that’s not quite right. It’s not something they can always put their finger on, but it’s uneasiness that can indicate there is an issue to be resolved. Often, we go to the same place every day, see the same things over and over and before long we become blind to what’s right in front of us. As our environment gradually changes, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

I recently came across a good example of that in my own workplace. We have a suitable wide hallway that leads to our bathroom and kitchen. We needed some extra storage space for some stationary. There is plenty of room in the hallway, so we put a set of shelves in. A week after the shelve were installed, someone placed a box of A4 print paper at the end. And then someone else put a couple of lever arch file on top of the box. There was still ample room to get by. As time went on more and more stuff got stacked up at the ends of the shelves. Today no one uses the hallway as there is another one on the other side if the meeting room. I had not even noticed until I was talking to one of the new juniors who was referring to the stationary room. “We don’t have a stationary room” I stated. She pointed to the hallway and not having any idea it was actually a main thoroughfare through the office. I do not remember when we stopped using the hallway. I remember someone saying something about it a couple of years ago but failed to listen properly. Today we have our hallway back and converted a small room to our stationary room.

Next on the list we have Information. Employees feel a sense of belonging when they are kept up to date about what is going on in the workplace. Let’s face it, they spend a third of their valuable time at the workplace. No matter how mundane the task, it’s an important role. The important thing is to provide the right information. Good or bad. With bad news we just need to give some reassurances. In any organisation, it’s hard to keep secrets. The easiest way to shut down rumours is telling the story straight. Employees appreciate the honesty and feel a part of the bigger team. And they understand there are some things that are too sensitive to share. There is a need to share safety Information as well. Regular meetings are great to get information out and in. Design your meeting so the employees feel empowered to speak up if there is something that needs improving.

Moving on to our third item, Act. You a better off to tell someone straight that you don’t believe there concerns are worth acting on than to feed them a line of “I’m on it” or “It’s the next thing on my list”. Just be straight. “I can’t deal with that until next Tuesday” but make sure when Tuesday comes around you deal with the issue then report back to your employee that it is done. Supervisors that act on requests are valued by both their managers and their staff. We are not saying let your employees walk all over you, just respect what they have to say and when appropriate, act. Because your staff will just get sick of talking to you and they are your best source of information.

Next, we have Improvement. Actually, it’s Continuous Improvement but that didn’t work with the LIAISE acronym. Safety is like anything else. You can have the best policies and procedures in place, but they get tired, complacency steps in and people forget. So, we need to continuously review, amend, discard and replace policies and procedures as new methods and new technology become available. Regular team meetings are a great source of two-way communication. Employees, no matter what their have great ideas on how to improve.

Now we get to Support. Often employees are going through issues away from the workplace. Peers, Supervisors and Manager need to keep an eye on each other for changes. People in high risk roles need to maintain focus on the task they are doing. It becomes increasingly harder if a worker is worried about a large unexpected expense, a sick relative or perhaps a relationship breakup. There are many services available to assist your employees. Some are free, others are paid such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). As employers our people need to know we care about their wellbeing. After all they are your single biggest asset.

Finally, we have Empower. That doesn’t mean we are giving our authority away to our subordinates. It simply means we are empowering people to contribute to their workplace, which is particularly important when it comes to safety. Nurture and encourage staff to speak up. Employees who are to intimidate to speak up develop and harbour resentment towards their employer which can quickly spread through an entire organisation.

To summarise LIAISE is all about open communication, trust and honesty. If you can’t discuss a certain topic with your staff for legal or commercial reasons let them know. If the situation changes tell them how much you appreciate their patients. If you follow this simple philosophy, your safety will improve, and when safety improves productivity improves.

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What is the purpose of construction site safety?

What is the purpose of construction site safety?

For a long time, it has been recognised that construction is a high-risk industry or at least has high risk components to it. For that reason, the construction industry is often targeted in news media and increasingly in social media.

So, to answer the question “What is the purpose of construction site safety?” we first need to understand the consequences of not having correct site safety.

  1. People get hurt. Without the proper safety procedures and protocols, we expose ourselves and our employees to harm. In the worst cases, death.
  2. Assuming the worst-case scenario, that is someone has died in your workplace this means a chain of events is about to unfold.
    1. The site is closed. In some cases, this could be for up to 4 weeks. This is for scene preservation while an investigation is undertaken and to ensure there can’t be a reoccurrence or similar incident.
    2. Sub-contractors, regardless of their involvement, are suspended from site. This can have a knock-on effect to the subcontractor’s employees.
    3. Once the site investigation is concluded a case will be bought before the coroners’ court. This can determine if criminal charges will be laid against anyone.
    4. While this is going on the company is trying to maintain its reputation. Everyday there is new information released to the press. Social media explodes with inaccurate information.
    5. Counsellors are engaged to assist those who feel traumatised by the event, and its not just those who witnessed it. There is always far reaching emotional distress for people who feel a connection to a victim.
    6. It should be noted that of all the companies who experience a workplace death only 16% will last the next two years and only 4% will survive past five years.
    7. The financial cost is astronomical. And insurance doesn’t cover everything. And the insurance company will try to recover at least some of those costs over the next five to eight years by raising your premiums to a rate so high you can no longer compete on the open market.

That is just a very brief look at what can and does happen following a death in the workplace. We have not even scratched the surface of the emotional trauma that family, friends, and colleagues have been put through.

Now, back to the original question, what is the purpose of construction site safety?

Put simply, safety is there as a protection mechanism. Protection for people, property, livelihoods, and business. The long term affects of poor safety practices could mean the closure of a company putting teams of people on the unemployment queue which has its own set of problems.

So next time when you hear someone talking badly about “all that terrible safety stuff” remember it not a waste of time, it is a crucial element in the longevity of a company. It might just save you in the short term but in the long term it might save your job.

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How to make workplace safety a priority?

How to make workplace safety a priority?

Its easy to say safety is everyone’s responsibility but the reality is everyone looks up to the top. So it starts with the CEO, or the Managing Director or perhaps the owner. If the senior people don’t believe safety is a priority that attitude will emulate throughout the entire workforce.

There are 3 principle things to remember.

  • Good safety makes for good economics
  • Good safety increase productivity
  • Good safety is a legal requirement

Working from the top down. Good safety makes for good economics. Simple really, if you have robust policies, implement and monitor there influences you will find certain things happening. Less downtime for minor injuries.

For example, a worker burns himself while making a cup of tea during his scheduled break. The incident happens in your lunchroom. The first aider needs to stop serving a customer to attend to the burn victim. Some burn cream is applied, and the wound is dressed. The consequences of this are:
1. The customer couldn’t wait – lost the customer
2.The first aider spent 25 minutes helping the victim
3.The injured persons spent 25 minutes been attended to for a minor injury.
4. Injury has occurred, an incident report has to be recorded. 40 mins.

Total lost –

  • 90 min employees time
  • 1 potential customer (who is bound to share the bad news story so potentially more customers.

This is a very common scenario. Some might say unavoidable accident. Others would argue all accidents are avoidable. Regardless 90 min of lost time has an impact. The lose of potential customers is major.
If you escalate this to a 3 cm blade wound while unpacking a box, now we have the first aider attending to the injured person for the same period of time in the shop prior to transporting the person to hospital for 5 sutures. Hospitals are a busy place and your employee is of a lower priority. The first aider waits with the injured person for 4 hours. The equation is a little different now
1. The customer couldn’t wait – lost the customer
2. The first aider spent 4 hour 25 minutes helping the victim
3. The injured persons spent 4 hours 25 minutes been attended to for an injury.
4. The injured person had the following day off on worker compensation (8 hours)
5. Injury has occurred, a incident report has to be recorded. 40 mins

Total lost –

  • 17 hours 30 min employees time
  • 1 potential customer (who is bound to share the bad news story so potentially more customers.
  • A claim against workers compensation for the hospital attendance and lost time.
  • This will have a lasting effect as every claim influences the following year Workers Compensation Premium.

Increased Productivity

Studies show that employees that feel that have a buy in or can contribute to the wellbeing of their workplace perform better than those who don’t. Workers who have a sense of belonging want to achieve more for their manager.

Good safety is a legal requirement

The Model WHS Act and Model WHS Regulations clearly lay out the requirements and penalties for breaches. These include large monetary fines and in some cases custodial sentences for individual. If there is a death caused by negligence, incompetence or failure to protect the stakes are even higher. Companies closures, family breakups and if you were even remotely implicated, it’s something you’ll never forget.

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What is workplace safety compliance?

What is workplace safety compliance?

It’s a straight forward question yet one that many employers don’t completely understand.

The dictionary defines “Safety” as the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury and “Compliance” as the state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards.

So we need to understand the rules and standards to protect from danger, risk and injury.

Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) have a Duty to manage WHS risks. Workers and other persons at the workplace also have duties under the model WHS laws, such as the duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at the workplace.

Safework Australia lays out a step-by-step approach to managing WHS risks.

Essentially, Identify Hazards, Assess Risks, Control Risks and Review the Controls. It sounds simple and for the most part it is. However, we tend to rely on a limited amount of people to start the process off. That being Identify Hazards. It’s not just up to the supervisor, manager or even the safety officer to identify hazards. It is a legal requirement that employees have the opportunity to report hazards and through the consultative process control those hazards.

While supervisors and mangers have a duty of care to the workforce they often have to prioritise their time to what they perceive to be the most important. Habitually, that will be productivity. It’s not deliberate or a conscious choice, it’s just they way we are wired. Conversely, if we put something in writing to a supervisor it tends to move up the priority list and we get action. If you combine this knowledge and put your safety concerns into writing, we increase the likelihood of immediate action and lower the risk profile of your workplace. This has been recognised in the higher-risk industries of Oil and Gas, Mining and Offshore works. For many years’ workers have been documenting hazards and risks in a paper format. They refer to these by several different names but all with the same intent to identify Hazards. HAZOB (hazard observation), HAZID (hazard identification), HAZOP (hazard and operability). And for the most part it has worked, lowering the risk profiles of those organisations. When you apply an enforceable quota such as a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and make it a company requirement to report 1 hazard per person per week hazards that you didn’t even know existed start to show up. It really doesn’t matter about the quality of the report, it’s the quantity that counts.

For example, at the beginning of the week we start with a Safety Talk. During that talk we reinforce the message about your Hazard Identification KPI’s. For some they will come out of the meeting and immediately hit their KPI. Other will procrastinate putting it off until Friday. But we now have multiple sources looking for hazards.

We would encourage a high frequency of reporting but understand there is scepticism around the effectiveness. To overcome this start with a KPI of 1 report per person per week. When you see results, escalate to 2 per week. Eventually you will get to 1 per day at which time you should be approaching your insurer to request a reduction in your premiums.

It should be noted: in this circumstance quantity outweighs quality. If everyone is looking for a safety observation, positive or negative, regardless of the quality you will achieve record high results in safety.

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How to report a hazard in the workplace?

How to report a hazard in the workplace?

There are many ways to report a hazard but we a looking for the most effective methods. So lets start with the fastest.

A verbal report to your supervisor. Following your normal path of communication, you simply tell your supervisor of the issue.

The next would be procedural reporting. Traditionally a slip of paper with some rudimentary questions, and some text from the hazard reporter. These go by several different names such as Hazobs, Take 5, RiskOb SafetyObs, etc. Often these are handed in at the end of a shift.

Perhaps you are uncomfortable with reporting a hazard verbally to your supervisor, so the next option would be to report it to a trusted colleague. This should be your HSR (Health and Safety Representative). They are trained in matters of safety and are generally able to liaise with management to resolve safety issues.

Moving forward you can always contact your union representative or organiser. Again, this would be generally by word of mouth either directly or via phone.

And of course, there is your regulatory authority. Depending on where you are WorkSafe or SafeWork. These agencies can issue fines, discontinuation notices, investigate and prosecute. They have hotlines you can call to report hazards or non-compliance, mobile reporting apps and email addresses specifically for hazard reporting.

Above we have five different channels of communication to report hazards. While the first one is the fastest it not necessarily the most effective. Supervisor have many facets to manage, Safety, Environment, Quality, Schedule, Procurement and Budget just to name a few. So, lets tell the our supervisor about the broken handrail on the loading dock. As the supervisor attempts to deal with issue he takes a call regarding a delivery then bumps into his manager who wants to discuss last month’s stocktake and an employee wants to know why they pay was short by two hours. Handrail, what handrail!!! The supervisor is forced to prioritise his workload and unfortunately our handrail fell off the urgent list without him even realising. The other consideration is there is no record of the hazard or repair.

So, with the same scenario lets look at our net option. The paper slip. Somewhat slower in delivering the message as the hazard was noticed at 10:00am when the Hazob was written but didn’t get handed in until 4:00pm at the end of the shift. Although there is a lag between identify the hazard and reporting, it is effective. Studies show if a report is made on paper will be acting on with priority by a supervisor. A supervisor with a written report feels compelled to act and exposed if they don’t. This has the added advantage of a documented record. Somewhat difficult to search for but a record none the less.

Our next option was report to your HSR. The issue with this is it places another link in the chain, as the HSR must receive the information then relay to the supervisor. It is more effective than telling the supervisor direct as the HSR is a safety professional and has more and his report has authority and therefore stays on the priority list. As a safety professional it is assumed the HSR will document both the hazard and the action taken.

Now the last two, the regulatory authority and the union really are very effective, however they are both external to your organisation and are therefore slow to attend. They can both have a dramatic effect on productivity particularly when the issue could have been dealt with using one of the other options. In saying that, in extreme cases of safety deficiency or when other efforts have been ignored it may be your only option.

There is another option. Digital tools such as SiteSafe360. This puts the best of all the option in play. Immediate reporting in a written format. Escalation of reports if a supervisor can’t or won’t open his reports. There are other benefits of digital reporting such as reports that are readily searchable by any number of parameters, data collection and detailed analytics where you can see at a glance where you need to focus your attention to prevent incidents and put your organisation on a continuous improvement trajectory.