Workplace safety should be of paramount concern to everybody. There are the obvious and serious risks of injury and fatalities, but in addition, poor workplace safety can cost companies substantial time and money and leave employers open to expensive legal liability.
According to statistics from Safe Work Australia, in 2016 there were over 150 fatalities and 5.6 injuries per million hours worked, costing employers an average of $10,800 per incident in compensation alone (lost productivity and legal penalties increase this value higher). While there is obviously a lot of work still to be done in increasing workplace safety, these numbers are at their lowest since their peak in 2007 — a direct consequence of a greater employer and legislative focus on health and safety professionals and standards.
Why Health and Safety Professionals Are Important
As well as the costs of compensation and lost time due to incidents, employers have a legal obligation to ensure their work environment is safe and regularly assessed for risk factors. Non-compliance can risk significant fines, further compensatory awards, and reputational damage.
Even if the workplace is a safe environment, employers still have additional obligations; they must also make sure they have appointed a qualified person to be responsible for health and safety checks, assessments, and enforcement within the workplace. Appointing a qualified health and safety professional not only fulfils your legal requirements, helping to mitigate future liability but also importantly reduces the strain of micro-management on employers and employees within the workforce when trying to prevent injury and fatality.
Employing health and safety professionals who are responsible and trained in the safest possible practices will reduce, and hopefully eliminate, accidents and incidents that result in injuries and fatalities.
When an accident or injury occurs, it will naturally come with some downtime, be it minutes, hours, or days. Downtime causes a wide variety of issues and a small amount can have a knock-on effect days or weeks later; all resulting in loss of revenue and profit.
Taking responsibility for the health and safety of your employees is a legal requirement, but more importantly, it will foster a better relationship with both the employees and the community the business is part of. Hiring health and safety professionals will help to ensure those responsibilities are fulfilled.
Australia’s health and safety legislation — The Work Health and Safety Act (WHS) — sets out various requirements that employers must meet. Ensuring trained health and safety professionals are employed and the workplace is a safe environment for everybody involved is a core element. Failure to meet the legal requirements set forth by the act can result in major financial penalties even if an incident does not occur — the penalties can be even higher, including incarceration, in the case of injury or fatality.
What Responsibilities Does a Health and Safety Professional Have?
The duties of a health and safety professional will vary dramatically depending on the industry and environment they are responsible for. In broad terms, their responsibility is to ensure the working environment is safe and as risk-free as possible for all employees.
In every workplace, whether high or low risk, the health and safety professionals will have a number of responsibilities. These build the core of a safe workplace, as well as fulfilling the legal minimum requirements.
Developing and Maintaining a Plan
A strong, well-documented safety plan is the foundation of any workplace that wants to avoid incident and injury. The development, documentation, and maintenance of a plan is the first and most important responsibility for health and safety professionals.
Knowing the reasons for an incident that occurs in crucial is stopping it from happening again. It should be the job and responsibility of the health and safety professionals to document each and every incident, its cause, and the actions that are being or should be taken to prevent it from happening in the future.
If workers aren’t correctly trained for and qualified in the job they are doing then things can go wrong fast. Ensuring all the staff have been trained and receive new and top-up training when required, is another responsibility of the health and safety professional.
New workplace hazards are always developing; new systems and procedures present new risks and wear and tear causes equipment to develop dangers. Performing regular assessments of the workplace and its risks is an important step in ensuring issues are addressed and it remains safe. This is the final core responsibility of the health and safety professionals.
The responsibilities don’t always end there, though. When dealing with safety in higher risk environments such as manufacturing, agricultural, or chemical refining, the duties and training requirements of the professionals will likely be more stringent. In these environments, health and safety duties may involve tasks such as checking and approving complex machinery for safe operation, verifying the secure storage and transport of hazardous materials, and assessing ambient sound levels.
Regardless of whether the professional is responsible for a high-risk or low-risk environment, their responsibilities will also likely involve working closely and liaising with management, unions, legal and human resource departments, and external inspectors.
How Can BNG Conserve Help?
A recent study on job outlook of health and safety professionals by Safety+Health Magazine has shown the industry is heading for a crisis. Over a quarter of the health and safety professionals interviewed stated their intention to retire within the next 5 years, with 21.8% over the age of 60 up from 17% the previous year indicating an ageing workforce with little new blood entering the industry. Moreover, 80% of respondents stated they had no intention to change jobs or companies within the next 5 years. Over time this will only serve to increase the difficulty in finding accredited health and safety professionals.
Despite this 75% of employers still have no replacement plan in place, and 62% claim they look to promote from within regardless of prior health and safety experience or qualification; a dangerous decision that risks both lives and legal compliance. This is where BNG Conserve comes in. Offering a professional, streamlined service for tracking and maintaining WHS compliance, we can help you remove the burden of ensuring your workforce is qualified in the latest health and safety standards so you can focus on running your business while minimising the risk of workplace incidents.
Want to learn more about how Conserve can help you? Contact us today!