Here’s an uncomfortable confession that many in construction wouldn’t admit to: ensuring workplace safety can be a colossal headache.
The rules, regulations and paperwork act as barriers to getting the job done. Because of this, lazy risk management, taking shortcuts and ignoring regulations becomes habit.
But last month was National Safety Month, and it reinforced how vital the safety conversation is. The stories told at the Health and Safety Month Conference showed that paying attention is important, despite the fact that Work Health and Safety (WHS) and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) procedures can be an irritating struggle.
The main problem that we’ve found is that most companies simply don’t put safety first, or think that they are already a safe workplace. When it comes to workplace accidents, “it will never happen to me” becomes ingrained. So the responsibility to own and action workplace safety procedures is not taken as seriously as it needs to be.
Business owners and project managers are preoccupied with breaking even and protecting their bottom line—and they see safety as a hindrance to this. The only time they’re really worried is when an inspection is due.
What doesn’t often occur to businesses—at least not until after the worst has happened—is the huge financial cost of accidents or near-misses.
What can ignoring workplace safety cost you?
Under the new WHS legislation, companies can be fined up to $3 million per offence, and up to $600,000 in personal fines. While under OH&S legislation penalties for companies are up to $3.2 million per offence, and up to $285,000 in personal fines. But these colossal numbers don’t seem to be getting through to people.
Sometimes it takes paying workers compensation for the rest of an injured employee’s life, or having to spend more to train replacements of injured employees, to realise it would have been cheaper to just implement safety regulations in the first place.
Even if there isn’t an accident, just the process of taking shortcuts or ignoring regulations can be costly.
A failure to complete pre-work safety assessments recently resulted in a Construction company being fined $24,000 for operating too close to power line. Of the case, WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety said that the crane company “had placed the crane operator's life in danger”.
This is not an isolated incident, and these situations almost always happen because the desire to get the job done outranks any safety procedures that should be in place.
More than just fines: Workplace Safety and your reputation
Not only does non-compliance with WHS and OH&S result in excessive fines, but there is also a huge risk to future earnings if you earn a reputation as an unsafe business.
There is also the fact that you could be risking the lives of your employees. The risk and horrific results of workplace accidents should never be underestimated, nor should the fact that the payout for worker’s compensation can be millions of dollars.
The changing demands of Workplace Safety
At the Health and Safety conference, Worksafe Chief Executive Clare Amies shared that WorkSafe is transforming into a prevention-led, customer-focused, digitally-enabled service organisation.
As a result, your organisation absolutely must do the following:
Get on board with the new, digitally-enabled WorkSafe.
Remove the ability to take WHS and OH&S shortcuts—because if it’s possible, people will definitely take them.
If you’re struggling with the paperwork of workplace safety, then completing it in an actual paper-based system is only going to further slow you down and cost more money. It is within these manual systems that shortcuts are most often taken—so along with having an outdated system, these businesses are also unsafe.
But protecting your workers and adhering WHS and OH&S regulations can be a positive factor for you.
The benefits of putting workplace safety first
A company with a strong safety culture and systems benefits from a good reputation as a safe employer.
Ensuring that your safety procedures are systemised and repeatable also helps you avoid fines, payouts and substantial financial risk.
It also brings the following benefits:
- Consistent induction of employees, so everyone has the same understanding;
- Faster inductions, meaning money saved through less time-wasting, and;
- Protection against legal accountability for incidents—as an employer who has gone to every effort to educate and protect your employees
Ultimately it is much cheaper to implement a fast, systematic WHS system than it is to pay workers compensation for life.
Implementing ‘safety first’ Workplace Safety practices
When you’re looking to implement more rigorous, systemised workplace safety procedures and processes, help is at hand.
Worksafe offers free consultations to help you identify hazards within your organisation and give you an action plan.
And Kontrol4 can help you integrate all systems, processes and procedures to ensure all your WHS and OH&S procedures are controlled and compliant.
Our integrated system speeds up the process of inductions and procedures, reducing the tendency to take shortcuts - and creates a forced work flow, eliminating the ability to take shortcuts.
So, in the lead up to Christmas when everyone is pushing their workers harder than ever and accidents are much more likely to happen, be sure you’re keeping your employees safe.
- Quickly, easily, cost-effectively systemise ‘safety first’ in your workplace,
- Ensure your employees are working in a safe environment, free from habitual shortcuts, and
- Protect you from risk of fines or reputation damage due to workplace safety faults