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.