Welcome to this episode of Employsure Essentials. Today I’m joined by one of our work, health and safety experts Kerri Allen. We’re going to cover off some of the steps business owners can take to be proactive about workplace safety let’s get into it Hi Kerri thanks for your time
Kerri: Hi, how are you today?
Scott: Good, good, so we’re gonna cover off work, health and safety. Do you think people place enough emphasis on it in their business?
Kerri: I think a lot of the time we are swept up with what’s going on right now so we tend to look more at the employment relations side of things, managing our staff to get what we want health and safety is something that is usually at the back of most persons minds because it’s not something that comes to light unless there’s an injury or something in the workplace that really brings it to the forefront.
Scott: Yeah it tends to be quite reactive when really it should be a proactive thing shouldn’t it?
Kerri: Yes from the legislation it should be something that we’re looking to stop things happening before they do, but it is something that I guess is a very big job which is why it kinda gets procrastinated and put off a little bit.
Scott: And I’m sure that’s every industry too.
Kerri: It is every industry no “A” performer in that one!
Scott: Surely it’s not out of any sort of intent but do you think people just don’t understand it? Business owners are just overwhelmed? Is that the right word?
Kerri: I think overwhelmed is definitely the correct word for it I think a lot of business owners are looking at it going – There is so much out there that I have to consider and I’m not sure where to go for something like that.
Scott: So I suppose then from that, are there some simple steps that employers can take? Employsure has a lot of clients in different industries, do you think that they are some things that every industry – these are the simple steps that employers should be taking?
Kerri: I would say that the first step is to have a chat with your staff, they’re the ones in the field, they see things that we might not see, if we’re say up in the front end of the office or dealing with customers on a day to day basis that’s probably the first thing – they get to see everything. I’d then be saying look to what could happen and then look at ways you can manage that before it does so that we don’t end up in bigger trouble later on down the track.
Scott: Yeah okay relying on your staff there does sound like a pretty good step they’re there every day, they are doing it whereas employers might not be they might be at the office doing something with everyone else out on site
Kerri: Believe it or not in most circumstances your staff are going to be the experts in that area they’re the ones doing the job they’re the ones that we consult with to be able to have a conversation and go look what is it that could happen when you’re doing this? And having them practice it on a day to day basis means they’re going to be the best equipped to identify that.
Scott: I’m sure that’s probably going to hurt some business owners to realise that their staff are the experts but it’s important isn’t it.
Kerri: It is because keep in mind I guess the reason we have staff is some of those jobs, we don’t want to do and they’re doing it for us so it’s good to get that feedback from them about what could happen outside of what you’re thinking very simple just having a conversation with someone, running a second idea and go hey have I missed anything?
Scott: Yeah great points, so it’s about bouncing off what you might think is a problem they might have a better way of looking at it and then having a look at a solution that you can put in place together that work for the business that staff are actually going to undertake and do Yeah okay alright let’s play hypotheticals so I run a hairdressing salon and all my staff know what to do, they are very safe, they don’t run with scissors, they don’t cut clients ears off they’re very good at what they do but a customer comes in and slips on some hair on the floor now that’s a customer do I have to consider them in my work safety as well?
Kerri: With health and safety overall it’s everybody’s responsibility and we need to keep the environment safe for whoever comes on the premises whether that be a volunteer or a customer or your staff or yourself it’s one of those obligations that extends to everybody that you might come into contact with so in that case it might be something that making sure your staff know – hey you should just sweep up the hair as soon as possible to avoid someone tripping over.
Scott: Yeah so it’s about protecting the customer, but steps that the employer should take too.
Kerri: That’s correct.
Scott: Does that extend then to the supply chains? So say you’ve got subcontractors or others are there obligations there for employers?
Kerri: Yes so the legislation usually looks at the word “workers” in general and it covers off anybody so contractors, subcontractors, staff, volunteers, even persons who just come onto the premises to just have a chat one day we have to look at their safety as well.
Scott: Everyone isn’t it, yeah okay, you’ve just mentioned that word that employers absolutely love legislation. Australia’s got a few different systems is that right? I mean New South Wales I might have to do things a bit differently to WA for example, is that right?
Kerri: That’s correct so we do have a system that covers some states but Western Australia and Victoria have slightly different legislations to give you an example if there is a serious injury reporting that to the regulator might be different in Western Australia than say it would be in New South Wales just depends on the circumstances.
Scott: Yeah okay, and does it depend on the industry? Or does it tend to be more of an across the board thing?
Kerri: There are industry specific elements to all health and safety, so building and construction industry is going to have a lot more regulation because you’re dealing with machinery, high risk work, as opposed to someone working in an office but we still have that obligation to maintain a safe premises for anybody we come into contact with.
Scott: Yeah good point and I think that’s an important example there that you’ve just said I mean people when they think of workplace safety and the big incidents they think about you know table saws and all the big manufacturing machinery but even you know a secretary at a reception of a firm can trip on a cord or is that something that you think employers might have a look at as well?
Kerri: Yes I think it’s really easy to overlook the day to day things so things like a cord that’s been plugged in because we’re charging our laptop that causes a risk of someone tripping and falling over from that and it’s just having a look at those little things that you might think are just common to every day and going look can somebody hurt themselves with that? And if so, is it something we just move that laptop of put a tiny table there to stop someone tripping over?
Scott: Yeah so again it’s about identifying that risk isn’t it?
Kerri: That’s correct it’s all about identification and what you can do to stop it happening before it does.
Scott: Great Kerri we’ve covered a lot today and I’m sure no matter where our listeners are they’re going to take something out of this but let’s really nail it. What are the top tips for employers? Have you got a couple of things that everyone should be doing?
Kerri: Yes I’ll probably say there’s four points to that 1. Talk to your staff 2. Identify any concerns 3. Put something in place to stop it happening and lastly just documenting what you’ve done so you have it all on record.
Scott: Great, all great tips and like we said before it’s about this isn’t a reactive thing, this is a proactive thing
Kerri: That’s correct it’s something that should defiantly be proactive front of line, top of the list, exactly. Scott: Kerri, thanks for your time.
Kerri: Any time, bye.
Scott: Well there it is, the essentials of workplace safety. Kerri gave some good points for every employer but the most important piece is that workplace safety should be top of the list for everyone, don’t wait for an accident to happen take the initiative and limit every risk as much as possible and don’t be afraid to rely on staff, they do the job every day and they know where the dangers are. As always for advice, call Employsure on 1300 651 415 I’m Scott McGrath looking forward to your company next episode.