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Safety fundamentals - Small and medium sized business workshop

Safe Work Month and Mental Health Week 2020

Speakers: Sarah-Jane Robson and Richard Taylor, Senior Advisors, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Designed for small to medium sized businesses with limited experience in work health and safety, this practical session will cover the fundamentals of safety and injury management systems.

Safety Fundamentals – Small and medium sized business workshop


Thank you for joining us today, we understand that you're busy and safety is just one of your many priorities when running a small business. So today we're going to stick to the safety basics. The info you really need to get started. As you know, businesses have a legal requirement to provide a safe workplace. We're not going to go into too much detail about the legal aspect, but it's important that we touch on this first. Employer duties are outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act. And the Work Health and Safety Regulations describe what must be done to prevent or control hazards. The codes of practice and guidance material will give you practical advice about ways to manage exposure to risks. If there is no regulation or code of practice for your hazards or risks, then you must apply risk management. What that means, is that you must consider what's reasonably practicable and either eliminate the risk or choose an appropriate way to minimize the risk.

Richard is going to talk in more detail about risk management later in the presentation. If you want to know more about Workplace Health and Safety Legislation, there's more information on our website. Aside from your legal duties, managing safety well is good for your business. Businesses often experienced reduced absenteeism and it's staff turnover, higher productivity and better quality of products or services. A company with good safety records, has a good reputation and becomes a sought-after employer. And may assist when tendering for work or securing contracts. Your safety systems don't need to be complex; they just need to work for you. Safety systems will include your policies, your procedures and your work practices. For ensuring safe completion of work tasks and a safe workplace. Remember, your aim is that no one is going to get hurt while at work. As we go through today's presentation, we will start to unpack what makes up a good safety management system. And how you can build on what you already have in place. As a manager or business operator, you play a very influential role in safety. You set the tone for how safety is done at your workplace. Showing commitment to safety is critical by participating in today's session, you're already showing commitment to safety at your workplace. This short video outlined some of the benefits of demonstrating management commitment to safety.

Norship video

If you don't have that commitment from the top, it doesn't totally work. They have to lead by example and the way they conduct themselves and be committed to the processes that they implement. They're not doing things safely because they're told to, they're actually doing them because they want to because it makes them safe, makes their workmates safe. The guys feel they've got ownership of them. And when they have contributed to the procedures and the way that we do things, it's wonderful.


I will go through some key elements that make up a good safety system. Research tells us that when employers do these things well, they manage safety well. The first element is management commitment. We've already touched on the importance of leadership and commitment to safety and this is critical to everything else working in your safety systems. The other elements of a safety system include consultation, managing your risks, reporting, worker capability and worker's compensation and recovery at work. We're going to discuss these elements in more detail now.

Consultation is a two-way process between you and your workers, where you talk to each other about health and safety matters. Listen to their concerns and consider what your workers say before you make decisions. So when should you consult? Well effective consultation is integrated into every step of safety management. When identifying hazards, when assessing risk, when deciding how to control risks, when purchasing equipment or changing the workplace or the role or the task. So, who should you consult? While employers have a legal duty to consult with workers who are likely to be directly affected by a health and safety issue in your workplace. You may have a health and safety representative appointed to your workplace. If you do, there is a legal duty to consult with them. HSR give workers a collective voice in health and safety matters and are a good way to involve workers through participation and consultation. So, what does consultation look like? Well it's likely that you're already doing some of these things in your workplace.

Consultation may be holding regular meetings formal or informal, such as toolbox talks, production meetings, prestarts, daily walk-arounds or team meetings where safety is a topic. It might include noticeboards, emails, newsletters, surveys or suggestion boxes. It might be via health and safety rep or a safety committee. For small businesses, meetings or face to face discussions with all your workers may be the best way to consult. So, what are the benefits of consulting? Employers have a legal requirement to consult but there are also other benefits for employers. Your workers can often see things that you may overlook, which allows you to get input on hazards, risks and solutions from people who understand and do the work. When workers are involved in making decisions, they are more committed to implementing them. Consultation helps build cooperation and trust between employers and employees. These videos drive home the importance of consultation in a workplace

Norship video

Before I felt like I was managing down under the guys when it comes to safety, you know, you will do it, and we tried to enforce it but now it's really them managing up as well. So, they sometimes highlight things that we're not doing correctly. They have a much, much bigger buy into the approach and the changes that we're trying to make. It's actually a self-policing culture as well. So instead of us picking it up, they're actually picking it up themselves.

Once we start putting safety first and actually start having robust discussions around it, inevitably it's fine to try from, you know, the boardroom through to the senior leadership team, through to the actual workforce. We've had some injuries in the workplace but we have lost a shift as a consequence but even those injuries are really being aggressively driven down by taking learnings from incidents, not just that it happened here, but then it happened in industry and applying those to our business.


In every work environment, there are hazards that could cause your workers harm, which means that there is a risk that needs to be managed. Often, people use the words hazard and risk interchangeably but in health and safety, the term risk is defined as the likelihood that the hazard made cause harm and the potential consequence or severity of the harm. Some risks are obvious like the risk of force from an unmarked ledge or burns from the hot oven. Other risks are hardest to see, like muscle strains from lifting or even the stress caused by the demands of work. To be able to properly address your hazards and prevent them causing harm, you need to know what they are and how best to target them.

So, let's talk about some practical ways you can do this. Well firstly, as Sarah Jane mentioned, consult with your workers. Workers are the eyes and ears of your workplace and are a valuable source of information. Talk to them and ask them what safety issues they have with the work that they do and any concerns that they may have. Go for walk through your workplace and look for obvious safety issues. You can do this informally or as part of a regular inspection schedule and make sure that you keep records of what you find. Also, make sure that the equipment at your workplace gets routinely inspected, just to make sure it is in good working order and fit for purpose. If you have meetings, check-ins, toolbox talks or even more formal safety meetings, keep a note of the safety issues raised and go back over them. Make sure that you follow up and give your workers feedback on how those issues will be addressed. You should also review your first aid records, incident reports or previous workplace injury data. How have people been injured in the past and how those hazards that caused or contributed to the incidents been managed?

So next, you need to consider how big is the risk. You can prioritize the risks by conducting a risk assessment, which involves looking at the likelihood that the hazard or cause harm and the consequence or severity of the harm. So, as part of the risk assessment process, you can ask questions like, what could harm people in your workplace? What type of harm may occur? For example, strains, burns, breaks. How severely could they be harmed? How many people could be affected if something did go wrong? and if something did go wrong, could escalate quickly to a major or catastrophic event? Like for example, a major chemical leak, how often is a hazardous task undertaken or the equipment use and has anything ever gone wrong before? So now that you know what the safety hazards are in your workplace and the level of risks they present, how do you actually fix or control their hazards? Well, if we go back to the legislation, it says that we must eliminate risk exposure so far as it's reasonably practicable. Or if that is not possible minimize the risks and use the hierarchy of control to help you select the best control options. So, what does this actually mean in practice?

Well firstly, we must try and eliminate the risk. Write down some thoughts on how you could do this and if elimination is not possible, then we must work through our control options to find the next highest order control using that same process. So, if we look at the diagram on the side, it shows us that we need to work from level one first, through level two, before we get to the lower order level three controls. Resist the temptation to skip straight to level three without first considering levels one and two first. So, if we look at level one control measures, these are the most effective control measures. And involve eliminating the hazard and the associated risk. For example, you could eliminate the risk of a fall from height by doing the work at ground level. So, if we look at level two control measures, these include substitution. This means substituting the hazard with something safer. For instance, you can replace solvent-based paints with water-based ones. We also have isolation, which means isolating the hazard from people. For instance, you can install guardrails around exposed edges and holes in floors, use remote control systems to maintain distance from machinery and storing chemicals in fume cabinets. That is of course, if you haven't been out to substitute them with something less hazardous. We also have engineering controls. For example, using mechanical devices, such as trolleys or hoists to move heavy loads, as opposed to relying solely on manual handling.


Then we get to level three controls, and these are often used to compliment level two controls but when used on their own are the least preferred option as they rely on human behaviour and supervision and they really tend to be the least effective in minimizing risks. So, two approaches to reducing risk using level three controls include, administrative controls such as work methods or procedures, which outline how to operate machinery safely or undertake a task. You can also limit exposure time to a hazardous task and signs to warn people of a hazard. These do nothing to actually address the hazard done. We also have PP controls so, personal protective equipment controls, and these include earmuffs, respirators, facemask, hardhats, gloves, aprons and protective eyewear. So, PP limits exposure to the harmful effects of a hazard but only if the workers wear and use the PP correctly, which means that again, you are relying on human behaviour for this control to be effective. So, let's now talk about a practical example of how we can apply this process to a real-life work situation.

So, Tim is one of your workers and he's told you about a risk of strain injuries when manually shrink-wrapping pallets at your workplace. He tells you that his shoulders and back hurt after he does his work. When you start talking to Tim and his workmates, they tell you that the pallet shrink wrapping machine has been broken for a while, so they've had to do the work by hand. You work your way through the hierarchy of controls. You first consider elimination but as a stock still needs to be palletised on your site before being collected by the trucking company, that turns out not to be an option. You then consider your level two controls. The guys tell you that the pallet shrink wrapper was great when it was working. They say it was so much quicker, more accurate and put much less strain on their bodies. The shrink wrapper is a level two engineering control. You identify the urgent need to get the pallet shrink wrapping machine repaired as soon as possible and back in use. You also choose to use an additional level three administrative control and work a safe work procedure for using the shrink wrapper. And you also train your workers in this procedure. So, something to be aware of is that sometimes control measures might work well by themselves or in some cases you may need a combination of different controls to best address the safety issue.

Cater Care video

If an employee reports an incident, we actually want to know about these things. We want to know when things don't go so well, so that we can understand why and then work with them to come up with solution, to better support them to be successful in doing their job.


As that short clip demonstrates a good reporting process can help you identify and understand where the issues lie in your workplace. So, it really plays an integral part of any good safety management system. So, what does good workplace health and safety reporting look like? Well firstly, good reporting means having the systems and procedures for reporting any safety issues and incidents in your workplace. So that is what is the actual process that someone follows, if they need to report a safety issue or incident. Is there a form that needs to be completed? If so, where is it kept? Who's responsible for completing it? Who gets the form when it is completed? And then what happens next? Obviously, each workplace is different, but the most important thing is to have a clear process to follow. And that this process is developed in consultation with your workers as it relies on their input to be effective. And they need to feel comfortable raising issues. A good system keeps reminding your workers to report hazards and near misses. Your workers are the ones seeing and experiencing them daily.

Next good reporting means ensuring that any health and safety issues and incidents are always reported on and most importantly acted upon with feedback going back to those making your reports that is really important. One of the things I hear a lot from workers when I'm out in workplaces is, I've reported a safety issue in the past, but never heard anything back. So, I'm not gonna bother to report anything in the future. That is exactly what we don't want to have to happen. If someone has gone to the trouble of reporting an issue, then it is your responsibility to make sure that they are kept up to date with what is being done to address it. A good reporting process also means making sure that the risk controls you're using get reviewed in the event of an incident. It's important to understand why these controls do not work and what you're gonna do in the future to prevent it from happening again. The reports that come in, can also help you identify any issues or trends that your workplace may be experiencing and help focus your attention on those key risk areas. Your reporting process should allow for the reporting of injuries, illnesses and fatalities, near misses, damaged or faulty equipment, housekeeping issues, any health and safety hazards and any suggestions up for improvement that your workers can come up with. As a business owner, it's also important to know that you must notify Workplace Health and Safety Queensland of any serious incidents, near misses and fatalities. We can provide with further information on this after the session.


As a business, what are your training and supervision responsibilities? Well, as a business, you must provide workplace health and safety training to your workers. And this responsibility is actually covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act. So, what types of training should you use? Well firstly, provide an induction and workplace safety training for all your new and existing workers. This is your opportunity to show your workers that safety is taken seriously in your workplace. Training will help them become familiar with their tasks, workplace hazards, their place of work and the people working around them. You have to make sure that all workers understand the induction training you've provided them with.

Also, consider the requirements of those who may have disabilities, cultural differences or language literacy and numeracy barriers and adjust your training to suit. You can also develop and use a checklist to make the induction easier to follow and to make sure that nothing has been missed. You can then keep the list on far as a record of your employees training. You can use our induction checklist to help you plan your induction process. And all attendees at a day's session will be provided with a copy. If you have any workers who are returning to work after a long period of time, then they should really go through that induction process again, just to make sure that they're aware of any recent changes to health and safety processes and procedures.

So next, you need to make sure that all your workers are trained and competent to do their specific tasks before they start work. This may require formal training and supervision, particularly in high risk work. Your safety management system should also help you provide your workers with ongoing training and supervision. One of the most important parts of training is the follow-up. So make sure that you are regularly observing your workers to check that the still following the safe work procedures and not taking shortcuts or adapting the task or equipment, make sure you're also running informal discussions or having toolbox talks with them to talk about specific health and safety issues that might come up. Also encourage your workers to provide feedback, again, that is crucial, they are the ones doing the job and can let you know when something is not right. As you might expect, your new workers will need closer and more regular supervision than your more experienced workers. And lastly, we'll look at training records. A good system will help you keep records of the training you have provided, so you know, who has been trained, how they performed and what further training might be required. The law requires you keep training records for certain tasks, such as working in confined spaces and working with certain types of hazardous chemicals. However, it is really good practice to maintain records of all training, including the induction. You should also keep copies of all high-risk work licences, such as forklift licences and monitor them regularly just to make sure they've not expired. A good system will also record any supervision and spot checks you undertake to demonstrate that you monitor and supervise your workers.


Thanks Rich, sometimes despite your best efforts, injuries can occur. And when they do, you provide first aid immediately and make sure that the injured person gets the medical care that they need. All workers have the right to claim for a workplace injury. In the event of a dangerous incident, injury or illness, you must also notify the applicable authority which Richard touched on previously in the reporting section. Good incident reporting and investigation procedures can help you to understand why the injury occurred. And may I draw attention to a hazard that might not have been identified previously or control that isn't working as intended. When an injury occurs, you should review and potentially make changes to risk assessments, safe work procedures and training documents in consultation with your workers.

In addition, employers are legally required to assist and provide rehabilitation to workers who sustain a work-related injury in line with the prescribed standard for rehabilitation, which you can access on our website. Workplace rehabilitation is a step by step process that allows workers to regain control and independence, after experiencing an injury or illness. The employer helps their injured or ill workers return to the workplace and perform work as they get better. Supporting workers to return to work can also benefit you by reducing disruption impacting productivity, such as reduced staff or training replacement staff. As the employer you or your rehabilitation and return to work coordinator if you use one, must make contact with the worker as soon as possible. Support the worker to come back to work if they can, consult the worker about their return to work capacity, regularly review the workers recovery progress and amend their work as their level of ability improves.

Keep work cover informed of the workers progress and maintain and review your workplace rehabilitation policies and procedures. You may not realize but the injured worker's direct supervisor must also assist the workers returned back to the team by helping solve any problems, monitoring the return to work plan to ensure it stays on track, maintaining positive communication with the worker about their progress and finding opportunities to keep the worker engaged in the workplace, such as meaningful suitable duties or involvement in team meetings.

Now hopefully you find today's session informative and helpful. Before we finish up, here are a few take home messages for you. Firstly, your safety system is more than a manual that sits on your shelf, if you've got one that's okay too but hopefully today you will walk away with an understanding of how you can use this in your day to day operations. If you are starting from scratch, we hope that you have the basics to get started to create your own system. Remember build on what you already doing this includes all the informal and formal systems you already have in place. To determine what systems, you may already have in place and where the gaps are and to identify what else you need, you can complete a self-assessment. We have links on our website that will help you. Finally, if you need some more support you can ask for an IPaM advisor like Rich or myself to visit your workplace. We can talk through the hazards and risks at your workplace and help you to develop a tailored improvement plan. Our service is free, and we have advisors located across the state.