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Small Business Safety webinar: Compliance at a glance in small business - what do I need to know?

This presentation is designed for small business owners and managers, or for those with minimal or no work health and safety management system in place. It explains the basics of establishing a health and safety management system in your workplace.

This webinar was part of our Serious about Safe Business toolkit, which has been replaced by the online Safety Fundamentals toolkit.

This webinar is brought to you by the Injury Prevention and Management program, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

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Work health and safety compliance in small business – what do I need to know?
Small business program
Office of Industrial Relations, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
By Anna Lewis and Steve Johnston

Slide 1

Julie Gallagher:

Good morning and welcome to our presentation on Work health and safety compliance in small business – what do I need to know?

Slide 2

This webinar is brought to you by the Small Business Program, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. My name's Julie Gallagher and our presenter is Anna Lewis and we both work in the Small Business Program. We have a panellist today, Steven Johnston from our Injury Prevention and Management Initiative. Steve is an expert in health and safety for small business and he and Anna will be available to answer your questions at the end of the session.

This presentation has been designed for small business owners and managers, or for those with minimal or no work health and safety management system in place. Over the next 20 minutes Anna will run through the basics of establishing a health and safety management system in your workplace. You can submit questions during the session or at the end of the session, however we will answer your questions following the presentation.

So now I'll hand over to Anna.

Slide 3

Anna Lewis:

Thanks very much Julie and welcome everyone to this session. As the title suggests we've developed this webinar to help small business owners or operators to comply with the Work Health and Safety legislation. As a small business owner under the legislation you have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all of your workers or people affected by your work and this includes your employees, contractors and subcontractors, any outworkers, apprentices and trainees as well as any volunteers or work experience students that might be working within your business.

Of course workers have work health and safety obligations as well but this webinar is going to focus on the role of the small business owner. So you can show that you're compliant with the legislation by having an effective health and safety management system which is a set of linked policies and procedures to help you to manage work health and safety in your business. However it's important that your health and safety management system fits your workplace. So this includes the size of your business, the type of work that you do and the people that are working for you.

So I'm going to run through the essential elements of a  work health and safety management system to help you to develop your own safety management system and to make sure that you can make health and safety a day to day part of your business practice. But don't forget that we're here to help you. The Small Business Program can assist you and we're going to talk about that towards the end of the session.

Slide 4

So there's a number of benefits to having an effective work health and safety management system as a safe and healthy workplace is going to be one of the keys to the success of your business. So on the slide here we've listed the benefits and they include lower absenteeism rates such as sick days, fewer business disruptions by keeping your production going, more motivated and productive workers because they feel safe and valued and importantly you'll improve your bottom line by lowering your compensation costs. You'll help to make your business more successful by overall improving your reputation.

Slide 5

So as I mentioned earlier there's a number of essential elements that make up a work health and safety management system and these elements are described in one of our resources which is called the Serious about safe business pack. On the slide here is the front cover of the pack. It's also available on our website and towards the end of the presentation I'll talk to you about how to find it. So in this webinar we're going to run through each of these essential elements to help you to develop an effective health and safety management system in your own business.

So the individual elements include management commitment, consultation, managing hazards and safe work procedures, training and supervision, reporting safety and workers' compensation and return to work. There's another element that I'm going to talk about that's not shown on the slide here because it's important that you establish a process for monitoring, reviewing and improving your health and safety management system to ensure that your system remains effective. So we'll chat about this element as well.

Slide 6

Our Serious about safe business pack also includes the compliance checklist and you can see it here. It's used to assess how your business rates in health and safety. So the checklist uses a traffic light system that helps you to identify where you need to make improvements. So that's highlighted in red. It shows you where there is still some work to do which is shown in orange and importantly where you're compliant which is then shown in green. The checklist then links you to action you can take to improve health and safety in your business.

Slide 7

So if we start to look at the individual elements in a safety management system the first one is management commitment because effective health and safety management in a workplace requires strong leadership and a commitment from managers to make safety a priority and to make the workplace as safe as it can be. Employers and workers need to understand their responsibilities and how that they can meet them.

You can demonstrate your commitment by showing enthusiasm and interest for good health and safety outcomes and following the rules yourself or what we could call walking the talk. It's good to get involved in safety initiatives and promote consultation with your workers and you should also try to act on safety issues as soon as they're raised by your workers. As you'd probably expect part of your commitment is also budgeting for safety to make sure there's enough time and money to put the systems into effect.

So one way to demonstrate your commitment to a safe workplace is to develop a written health and safety policy and it's best if you develop this in consultation with your workers to make sure that they're involved along the way. But there's a few things for you to keep in mind when you're developing your policy and we can actually provide a template for you if you want to adapt it for your own business.

So firstly you should note the duties and responsibilities of all parties involved. It should state your commitment to improving health and safety. It should be dated and signed by the business owner. You should make sure it's accessible to all of your workers and finally you need to make sure you review it regularly to make sure that it does remain current.

Slide 8

So the next element in your system is consultation because as stated in the legislation business owners must consult with workers about health and safety issues. So you should involve your workers in identifying and resolving health and safety issues by listening to their point of view. It's important that you actually show them that their contribution really is valued.

Effective consultation actually encourages greater awareness of issues and can lead to an improved safety culture and outcomes. However there's a number of ways that you may choose to consult with your workers. This could include meetings or toolbox talks or you may develop health and safety committees or representatives.

You can also deliver general health and safety information using noticeboards, emails and newsletters or more recently some businesses have started using social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

Slide 9

So we've looked at the importance of management commitment and consultation in establishing and maintaining a health and safety management system. But now we're going to look at some of the things you actually need to do to manage risks to health and safety in your own business. So first we're going to look at hazard management which is essentially a problem solving exercise to define problems or identify hazards, to gather information about them or assess the risks, to solve them or control the risks and finally to regularly review your controls.

So the first step as you can see on the slide is to identify any hazards and you can do this by looking around your workplace or work sites and looking at your work processes. It's also important that you talk to your workers and look at what has already happened which might include looking at any previous incident reports.

The second step is to assess the level of risk associated with each hazard. So this includes considering the severity of any injury or illness that could occur, looking at the likelihood or chance that someone will suffer from an injury or illness. So a risk assessment will help with deciding which control measures you'll use by identifying which workers are at risk of exposure to a hazard, working out what is causing the risk, identifying any control measures and then checking the effectiveness of the controls.

You then need to control any remaining or residual risks by developing safe work procedures and safe work procedures simply include steps to perform a task safely such as how do you turn on, use and then turn off equipment safely. Safe work procedures are also useful tools for training and supervising your workers and responding to incident reports and changes in the workplace. However it's important to remember that they're most effective if they're developed in consultation with your workers.

So in your business we suggest that you develop safe work procedures for tasks that present the greatest risk and pose the most serious consequences first and then you can gradually work through those that present less risk in your business. Finally control measures should be regularly reviewed to make sure they remain effective and common methods of review include workplace inspections, consultation and testing and analysing records or data.

Slide 10

So the next element in your safety management system is training and supervision because it's actually your responsibility as a business owner to provide information, training and instruction to your workers to ensure that their health and safety at work is paramount.

So firstly you should provide training when a worker starts in the workplace to cover emergency procedures, workplace facilities, first aid, how to report a hazard or other safety issues, how work health and safety is managed in the workplace and any health and safety procedures and policies that are required for their work tasks. So this might include manuals, safety data sheets and personal protective equipment or what we call PPE.

You should assess your workers' competence and provide task-specific training. For example there are specific training requirements for a range of things such as working in confined spaces or construction work. You may need to supervise your workers especially when they undertake a new task because supervising your workers when they perform tasks until they can do it safely and to make sure they keep doing it safely is going to help you to maintain a safer workplace.

It's also good practice to keep training records while a worker is employed to keep track of training provided, also if a worker has an injury or an accident.

Slide 11

So the next element is reporting safety. As a simple reporting procedure will help you to obtain important information about health and safety issues in the workplace. It will help you to identify problems when they arise and then finally it will help you to address them. You also need to plan and schedule regular inspections and maintenance of your equipment and tools including the safe storage of chemicals and equipment. You need to provide easy to understand information and keep your workers informed of any changes as providing training opportunities when anything new is introduced at work is going to help to ensure the ongoing safety of everyone.

All workplaces need to have an incident or injury notification system in place with everyone familiar with the procedures. So if a workplace injury does happen to occur the process can be followed. Workers are also required to ensure that any injuries or dangerous occurrences are recorded including any near misses as well. Finally it's important that you plan for emergencies so everyone knows what to do if an emergency does happen to occur.

Slide 12

So the last element in the safety management system is workers' compensation and return to work following a work-related injury. It's important to note though that a work-related injury doesn't actually have to happen at work. They can also happen travelling to or from work or when your worker is on a break. Also injuries can include a range of things such as physical injuries, psychiatric or psychological disorders, diseases, aggravation of a pre-existing condition or of course death from an injury or disease.

Getting back to work is an important step in your workers recovering from a work-related injury and requires assistance in returning to their normal duties. So this can mean working reduced hours or lighter duties or what we call suitable duties. Early return to work will also reduce your claim costs and impact on your premium. It will help you to retain your workers and there'll be less disruption impacting on your productivity.

So what do you need to actually do? Firstly you need to have a current workers' compensation insurance policy with WorkCover or some employers may actually be self-insured. You need to notify your insurer of any workplace injuries, you should assist your workers to return to work after a work-related injury or illness and you may need to make suitable duties available to them. You need to develop an effective return to work program for your injured workers where you work with your insurer, the injured worker, their doctor and any other health care providers that might be involved in the case. Once your worker has returned to work it's also important to monitor and continually review their progress.

Slide 13

So finally maintaining a safe workplace is really important and managing health and safety in your business is likely to be an ongoing task. Your safety procedures and operations may evolve with time as your workers are likely to come and go which then changes the risks and mitigations for everyone in the workplace. So you should regularly review and monitor how effective your workplace health and safety management system is and make any necessary adjustments along the way to keep it up to date.

So this might include a full review of the effectiveness of your workplace health and safety management system which is something that you may choose to do annually. It may include regular reviews following analysis of your objectives, targets or performance indicators. A review could also be conducted following hazard inspections or during internal audits. It could be conducted as a feedback mechanism from workers following training or after an investigation into an incident or accident.

Slide 14

So in summary under work health and safety legislation employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all of your workers. You can show that you're compliant with the legislation by having an effective health and safety management system. As we've gone through in this webinar the essential elements of the safety management system include management commitment, consultation, managing hazards and safe work procedures, training and supervision, reporting safety and workers' compensation and return to work.

Finally it's important that you do monitor, review and continually improve your safety management system to ensure that it does remain effective. But remember when you're developing your safety management system make sure that it does meet the needs of your workplace including the size of your business, the type of work that you're doing and the people who are working for you.

So I'd now like to talk about how our Small Business Program can help you to do this.

Slide 15

So the Small Business Program within Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has staff located across Queensland who can offer free advice through workplace consultations or site visits, group coaching sessions, presentations or we can simply provide a wide range of resources including tools and templates such as the workplace health and safety policy I referred to earlier in the webinar. Overall we're here to help you to understand your health and safety requirements, to identify actions to improve health and safety and to develop an effective health and safety management system. So please get in touch with us if you'd like our help.

Slide 16

So if you'd like to get started following this session I'd like to suggest that you read through our Serious about safe business pack which is shown on the slide here and then it will be a good idea to complete the checklist for your workplace to get an idea of where you're at. Both of these resources are available on our website which is which is also shown on the slide. I've also included our phone number and our email address if you'd like to get in touch with us.

So thanks very much for listening and I'm now going to hand over to Julie who's going to facilitate some questions.

Slide 17

Julie Gallagher:

Thanks very much Anna. We'll now answer any questions that have come in from you. We're going to start with one about reviewing the health and management safety system. I'll put this to you Anna. 'How frequently should I review my workplace health and safety management system?'

Anna Lewis:

Thanks very much for the question. It's actually a bit hard to give you a timeframe as there really isn't one for this because each workplace situation is so different. Instead it's probably important to think about when your review should be done, guided by the triggers that may actually effect changes in your workplace. So some of the triggers that may influence when you do choose to review your system could be when you purchase new equipment, when there's new information about workplace risks such as a new safety alert about a product that you are using or you may conduct a review in response to safety concerns that have been raised by your workers.

So really your review is likely to be triggered by changes and the particular needs of your business rather than by a set timeframe.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay. Thanks Anna. Steve, we'll put the next one to you. The question is 'Where do I find safe work procedures?'

Steve Johnston:

Rightio. Well you can get on the internet and search for a safe work procedure for whatever machine or task that you perform in your business. The problems with doing that are firstly you don't know what the quality is going to be of the documents that you find and whether it actually suits the way you use it in your business.

The process we recommend for establishing safe work procedures in your business is firstly to break down all the tasks you do in your business, get started with one of those tasks and do an analysis on it, whether that's a risk assessment, a task analysis or a job safety analysis. There's all sorts of assessment tools you can use. So find one that works for you and do your analysis of that task.

When you're doing that refer to the codes of practice that are relevant to the task and make sure you're considering what the law says you've got to do. Refer to any standards, industry standards, Australian Standards that are relevant to that task and of course one good source of information is the manual that came with the piece of equipment, if you've got one. Once you've done that task analysis then you can pull out information from that and use it in your safe work procedures. So that will be a safe work procedure that's specific to your business and specific to the task that you perform in your business.

Then you can go back to that one that you found on the internet and make sure you've covered off everything that they've put in their safe work procedure because there might be something that you didn't identify when you did your own. So you can still use the information on the internet but I'd go through that other process first.

Julie Gallagher:

Thanks very much Steve. That's one that we do help businesses with quite a lot. The next question I'll put to Anna. So Anna 'Do I really need to go through those steps for risk management every time?'

Anna Lewis:

So the four steps that the person's referring to in this question are to identify, assess, control and review the risks and no, you don't need to go through them every time. If you know how to control a risk and it's well known and accepted, then you don't need to assess the risks. You can go straight from identifying the hazard to controlling the risk. You really just need to do a risk assessment when there is uncertainty about the hazard or when there are lots of hazards or people involved, or when there might be some changes at your workplace.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay. Thank you Anna. Steve, one on business size. So 'What size businesses need to comply with all of this? Is it five, 10, 20 employees and do I include temporary staff?'

Steve Johnston:

Yeah look the Workplace Health and Safety Act applies to all sizes of businesses, whether it's an owner operator or you've got 1,000 employees. It also includes volunteers and contractors if you use contractors in your business. So every size of business and including every type of worker in that business.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay. Thank you. Anna another one that's come in from the listeners. So, 'Is a safe work policy the same as a safety work plan?'

Anna Lewis:

Well people use a number of different terms but I think what someone's referring to here is safe work procedures, JSAs or safe work method statements that are used in the construction industry. So these are all plans, documents or procedures that set out how to do work safely. They identify hazards, controls and then they step through a task safely.

In contrast a safe work policy is a statement of your business position when it comes to safety. It actually shows that your business and the managers or owners value your safety. It states matters of principle. So it's focused on actions and stating what is to be done and by whom. So it's an authoritative statement that's made by a person or body with the power to do that.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay. Thank you Anna. We'll go back to Steve for the next one. 'When creating a safety management system do the policies and procedures and all safety related documents go into the system?

Steve Johnston:

Well a safety management system is really all the things you do in your organisation to manage safety. So yeah, all the policies and procedures and all those safety related documents are part of what make up the system. So they don't really go into the system. They are actually the system. If you have a look at the Serious about safe business pack that Anna referred to earlier and you can get that on our website, it will give you some really good guidance. Your systems should consist of the six elements we've covered in the webinar including documentation and evidence demonstrating management commitment, consultation, risk management or safe work procedures, training and supervision, reporting safety and workers' compensation and return to work.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay great. Anna one about one of those elements – management commitment. So the question is 'I'm second in command at our work and I can't get the owner to take workplace health and safety as seriously as I would like. Any tips?'

Anna Lewis:

This is a bit hard to answer without knowing the context or having an understanding of the people who are involved. However it's a good start to start by showing the owner the business benefits from good workplace health and safety. So we had a slide at the beginning of the presentation that highlighted some of the benefits. It included things such as lower absenteeism and fewer business disruptions. If you're looking at business stability we know that keeping people safely at work is essential.

Then of course to convince business owners of the benefits of good health and safety you can look at some of the costs of doing business otherwise. So for example the estimated cost of sick leave for work injury are actually twice the employee's daily rate of pay. So in other words it costs twice as much to have someone off work than to actually have them there.

You might also choose to contact WorkCover or use their online services to forecast your premium and track how you perform compared to others in your industry. In addition Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has an Injury Cost Calculator that you might choose to use to highlight uninsured costs of an injury such as clean up, down time or time taken to attend the injured person to hospital. Or finally you can also check our website where you'll find some evidence to demonstrate the benefits. We've got a few case studies on the website that you might find quite useful.

Julie Gallagher:

Great. Thanks Anna. Okay another one that's come in and back to Steve. Steve, 'What are your views on the requirements for very small businesses, one or two-person businesses with respect to formal and informal management system processes?'

Steve Johnston:

Yeah look what makes up your safety management system can and will vary enormously from business to business. The size of the business is certainly one aspect that can change things but also what risks the business faces. So a business faced with less risk, say predominantly office work would have less to do in managing their risks than someone in manufacturing or construction.

So a very small business with one or two people, it might very well be the case that they don't need a lot of policies and procedures. There are some things that are mandatory, for example if you're in construction you'll need safe work method statements for your high risk work. A lot of places will need workers' licenses to operate things like forklifts and it's always a good idea to have some risk assessments and some procedures for emergency response and records of maintenance on plant and equipment, safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals that you use.

But in terms of writing up safe work procedures it really depends on what risks are in the business and the best way to manage those, whether procedures are necessary or whether you can go further up the hierarchy of control and manage out the risk altogether.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay thank you. Steve I'm going to stick with you for the next one because it's also about business size. 'At what size then would I need management to be trained as a safety officer for my plan?'

Steve Johnson:

Yeah. Look under the Act we had prior to 2011 there was a requirement to have a Workplace Health and Safety Officer for businesses that had over 30 workers. That wasn't kept in the new Act that came in in 2011. But the law now places some specific duties on what they call 'officers' of organisations. So officers are the people who make the big decisions in an organisation. So that's generally going to be the board of directors, the CEO, that sort of very high level position.

I'm actually looking at a great guide that's on our website called the Guide to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011that gives you a really good overview of who has what duties under the law including the duties of those officers. So some of the things that officers need to do are acquire and keep current information on work health and safety matters, understand the nature and operation of the work and of the associated hazards and risks, and ensure appropriate resources are used to minimise health and safety risks.

So it's really up to the people running the business to have the skills and knowledge they need to be able to run the business and have that knowledge about safety. But no, there's no requirement for a Workplace Health and Safety Officer based on business size anymore.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay that's great and as Steve mentioned that guide is available on our website. I think we've got time for one more. Anna, 'Is there anyone that can review and give guidance on our safety management system as part of your free assistance provided by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland?'

Anna Lewis:

Well I'm pleased to say that there actually is. The Small Business Program is made up of a network of advisors and inspectors that are located throughout Queensland. So we have people in most major centres particularly based up and down the coast but we also can do phone services for businesses that are based in rural and remote areas across Queensland. So we offer one on one site visits or workplace consultations at your workplace or we're happy to meet somewhere that's convenient to you and when we meet with you we're happy to look at what you've got in place. We'll also help you to identify any gaps or any issues that you'd like to cover.

So we can provide advice, information and materials to either review or help you to set up the elements of a safety management system. So if you're part of a group such as a franchise or you have a business network in your particular region we're also happy to meet with you as a group and we can do what we call group coaching sessions or what we might call interactive presentations specifically for your group. We also have a lot of guidance material including templates and checklists that may be useful for you and we're happy to provide these to you.

So to access any of our services you can either call us, you can go to our website and register your interest or please do feel free to email us. So one of our officers then in your local region will then contact you to discuss what you need. So you will have seen on the last slide that I presented it had all of our contact details there for you.

Julie Gallagher:

Okay thanks very much Anna. So that's about all we have time for today. Thank you Anna and Steve for your answers. There were a few questions that we didn't get to. So what we'll do is we'll send out some more information and answers to everyone who registered today.

So thank you to Anna for your presentation and thank you to everyone for listening in to our webinar today.

[End of Transcript]