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Poor safety culture turned around

An inbuilt culture of not reporting minor workplace injuries has been turned around for a Queensland business after it called in the Injury Prevention and Management program to review its work health and safety procedures.

With 80 workers across four South East Queensland workplaces, Animal Emergency Services (AES) wanted to ensure it had effective safety and injury management systems in place. AES wanted the overhaul to reflect the range of hazards and associated risks in its industry, including the unique circumstances of being an after-hours service, trying to manage fatigue, and the potential for violence due to high emotions from pet owners.

“Knowledge. Which is Power.” That’s what AES says is the real take home message of its work with the IPaM program. A joint initiative of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and WorkCover Queensland, IPaM helped AES turnaround a longstanding entrenched industry culture that meant injuries from animals were often not reported because they were so prevalent and might drive up insurance premiums.

“IPaM has driven home how important injury management is in providing valid and reliable data that we can clearly begin to measure our performance in our duty of care,” says AES WHS consultant Dini Menrath.

“In our industry, vets and nurses get bitten, scratched, sprained backs, ankles, trips, slips, falls, and sharps injuries a lot. Only a serious injury such as a degloving, would be deemed reasonable or serious enough to report. Besides, the animal didn’t mean it.”

After working with IPaM, the business has flipped the culture on its head and is now report driven, with strongly supported early return to work programs working in the best interests of its employees.

IPaM helped AES realise how important injury management is in providing valid and reliable data that can measure duty of care performance. Priority areas targeted within the program included mental health first aid training at each hospital, launch of a wellness committee, the roll out of a wellbeing survey, and better processes for managing occupational violence.

Violence from pet owners, emotional issues involving sick and dying animals and euthanising them, as well as shift work, means mental health concerns are rife in the industry.

IPaM contributed to the group’s safety and wellbeing by working with AES to ensure ownership of work health and safety was shared amongst practice managers and in identifying WHS leaders at each site. At the director level, there is a better understanding of the benefits of injury management and a subsequent increase in resourcing for WHS matters.

Return to work processes have been streamlined and increases in incident and injury reporting have allowed the organisation to conduct better risk management processes. As a consequence, workers’ compensation claims have reduced dramatically.

Further information

IPaM is free to participate in for any Queensland employer with a WorkCover Queensland policy, regardless of size or business maturity. Find out how your business can benefit.