Preview Article: What Does OH&S Mean?

Occupational Health and Safety issues are a vital part of all workplaces. OH&S consultant, Bevan Smillie, explains…

As employers in the FMCG, area we are exposed to a wide range of risks associated with staffing. These include among other things; issues of privacy; equal opportunity and discrimination; bullying in the workplace; IR changes associated with the soon to be introduced WorkChoices legislation, and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S).

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Caption: Bevan Smillie

In particular, OH&S is a major area of concern as our employees are exposed to a wide variety of risks whether it is working in a warehouse, lifting heavy packages or being exposed to hazardous materials.

In recent years there has been a very strong push by governments on OH&S to the point that you often hear people say, “Health and Safety – Oh yeah, that is really big, very important and an important part of our business”. However, do they really know what Health and Safety is? Have they ever really taken the time to sit down and do some research and find out what Health and Safety is all about and what it means to their business?

Occupational Health and Safety has been around for many years but has gained considerable profile and momentum over the last 10 –15 years as organisations finally start to realise that effective OH&S Management is integral to a business. OH&S was always one of those things that “cost a lot to fix something that wasn’t broken”. But over the years we have learnt that OH&S does not always cost a lot and fixing something that isn’t broken, could not be further from the truth.

Each state has developed OH&S legislation that is referred to as “self regulatory”. To keep this simple it means that each workplace (under the management and control of the Employer) is responsible for regulating their own health and safety performance. We do not have legislation that prescribes exactly what you must do like we do on the roads. We have regulations that set performance standards and it is up to each Employer to demonstrate that they are doing as much as they can (legally referred to as “so far as reasonably practicable”) to make their workplace safe. We do this by adopting a ‘Risk Management’ approach”

 

  • Identifying the hazards
  • Assessing the associated risk
  • Implementing the appropriate control measures, &
  • Evaluating and monitoring.The principle of risk management is to protect ourselves from probable loss. We apply the same principle in various aspects of our business including public liability, product liability, business continuity, security, fire protection, property insurance, professional indemnity insurance to name but a few. OH&S risk management is about protecting the health, safety and welfare of people (employees, contractors, visitors etc) and our plant and property from damage which ultimately protects our business.

 

What are my responsibilities as an employer?
The overriding responsibility imposed upon an Employer is to provide a working environment that doesn’t create a risk to the health, safety and welfare of its employees so far as reasonably practicable.As such, we need to take the necessary action to eliminate or reduce exposure to risk to ensure we are fulfilling our obligation. It is up to the Employer to be able to demonstrate that they have implemented the necessary control measures to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of someone being injured or exposed to risk, no matter what type of industry.

Legislators require Employers to consultatively address OH&S with employees and when you think about it, that is good practice. Who knows the most about the workplace? Your employees.

What If I Don’t?
There are many negatives associated with ineffective OH&S Management. Some of these include:

 

  • Injuries to people,
  • Financial and emotional stress as a result to families of the injured,
  • Downtime in production,
  • Lowered staff morale,
  • Damaged corporate image,
  • Considerable intervention and governing from regulatory authorities
  • Prosecution including considerable fines and jail,
  • Civil litigation,
  • Increased premiums.How Do I Apply This?
    In order to demonstrate compliance with the legislation and the common law imposed – ‘Duty of Care’, Employers need to address all aspects of their business that have an OH&S risk. This could include hazard based activities including Plant and Equipment, Manual Handling, Chemicals, Noise, Working at Height, Confined Spaces, First Aid & Accident Investigation, to name but a few. Employers also need to look at safety for contractors, visitors and cover the most important component, the provision of adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable work to be performed in a safe manner.The best method – sit down and start talking and planning actions with all associated within the workplace. The most effective way to success is through positive action and regular consultation and feedback. What does that mean? – Teamwork.Bevan Smillie is a Senior Associate of Lloyd Morgan HR Consulting he is an OH&S Specialist Consultant with over 10 years experience. His qualifications include a Bachelor of Applied Science (Safety) an Associate Diploma in OH&S and Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training.You can read the complete article in the April issue of the Australian Hardware Journal.