28th April is World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This day is observed to stress the importance of the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases.
Latest data by Safe Work Australia shows that in 2021, 169 workers were fatally injured at work in Australia. This World Day is a timely opportunity to look back and review the importance of safety and health at work.
In 2003, the International Labour Organization (ILO) started to observe World Day for Safety and Health at Work to emphasize the prevention of accidents and diseases at work and encourage advocacy for a healthy working environment. It is a significant tool to raise awareness on how promoting a safe and healthy culture can support reducing a number of work related deaths and accidents.
In June 2022, the ILO decided to include a safe and healthy working environment in the ILO’s framework of fundamental principles and rights at work.
Theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023
The theme for World Day is ‘A safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right at work.’ Each of us deserves a safe and healthy workplace and we all have our parts to play. Governments and decision-making bodies are responsible for creating effective infrastructure including laws and services necessary to ensure workers can do their jobs. This will include developing national policies, programmes, and inspection systems to enforce compliance with occupational safety and health legislation and policy.
As employers, we are responsible for ensuring the working environment is safe and healthy.
As employees, we are responsible for working safely, protecting ourselves, and not endangering others. We should also know our rights and participate in implementing preventive measures.
Emerging Definitions of Safety and Health at Work
Safety at work is no longer restricted to the confines of occupational health. Mental health and psychosocial factors are slowly being recognised as true threats to businesses and employees. According to a report by United Nations, stress from work, excessive hours, and occupational disease are responsible for nearly 2.8 million deaths every year. Another 374 million people are either injured on the job or get sick because of their jobs, the report further adds.
The global pandemic put international attention on work related stress, anxiety, and other related issues. Most jobs involve some psychosocial hazards. These hazards can harm your employees’ mental health. They can also cause physical harm.
Psychosocial hazards include:
low job control
lack of role clarity
poor organisational change management
inadequate reward and recognition
poor organisational justice
traumatic events or material
remote or isolated work
poor physical environment
violence and aggression
harassment, including sexual harassment, and
conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions
Where do psychosocial hazards come from?
Psychosocial hazards can come from:
the design or management of work
a work environment
plant (e.g. equipment) at a workplace, or
workplace interactions or behaviours
How do they endanger employee safety?
Psychosocial hazards can create stress. This can cause psychological or physical harm. Stress itself is not an injury but if workers get stressed often or regularly, over a long time, high levels of stress can cause harm.
Psychological harm may include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleep disorders.
Physical harm may include musculoskeletal injuries, chronic disease or fatigue-related injuries.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must eliminate psychosocial risks, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable.
How can employers ensure workplace health and safety?
Safe and good work design is one of the best ways to practically implement sustainable solutions for health and safety. PCBUs have a duty to consider good work design, which consists of the following:
The work- How is the work performed? What is the task duration? What is the frequency of the tasks? How complex are the tasks?
Workers’ needs and preferences- What do your workers need? What are their capacities? Do they have particular preferences for their well being?
The physical environment- Work-related accidents happen because of poorly designed physical environments. The physical environment includes the work itself, plant, equipment, materials, and substances.
Systems and processes- The systems and processes involved in the work can considerably impact health and safety. These include production processes, safety measures, business management, and human interaction.
Good work design
Good work design can be of vital importance in transforming your workplace. It can deal with emerging occupational risks, reduce potential accidents, and build a healthy work environment.
It should also:
protect workers from harm to their health and safety
improve worker health and wellbeing
improve job satisfaction and performance
improve business success through higher worker productivity and innovation
Good work design can help you meet your WHS duties.
Everyone has WHS duties under the model WHS Act. You have specific duties if you are:
a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)
a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier and installer of plant, substances or structures
As a PCBU, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable :
ensure the health and safety of workers and others at your workplace
consult with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking and who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter, and
consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other relevant duty holders
Building better businesses
Adequate safety and health measures at work play a crucial role in containing disease, protecting workers including young workers, and supporting society. As a business owner, you have a responsibility towards safety and health at work. With constantly changing legislations and regulations, it can be tricky for you to keep up with your duties.
30,000 businesses across Australia and New Zealand have trusted us to support them. With our 24/7 Advice line, available free of cost for all business owners, we can help you understanding effective health and safety practices.
This World Day, we all have a role to play in focusing international attention on the importance of health and safety at work.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the steps in managing health and safety at work?
The first step in managing health and safety at work is having a health and safety policy at work. This policy should be clearly and regularly communicated with your employees.
Please note that this document is intended to act as general information and not supposed to replace advice. Consult a health and safety professional before implementing any strategies or policies.