High risk areas in the construction industry have been in the spotlight recently, with Greg Jones named as the ACT’s new work safety commissioner.
Access Canberra’s construction, environment and workplace protection director of regulator compliance, Mr Jones said the ACT’s track record in workplace health and safety had not been good.
Can the same be said of other Australian states? Most probably. While it is wrong to make a blanket statement about workplace health and safety, as many organisations are most certainly doing the ‘right thing’, there are still too many who are not.
Indeed, as of 26 July, 2016, 86 Australian workers had been killed at work. The majority of these deaths were in agriculture, forestry and fishing; transport, postal and warehousing, and construction.
These are not statistics to be proud of, and I wonder how many of the organisations involved had integrated safety management system certification in place.
There is certain legislation that all Australian businesses are supposed to follow, to show responsibility, and compliance with legal requirements. But some organisations choose to do more, and further decrease their risk of failing the law, by implementing safety management Standards.
In Australia, businesses tend to choose either OHSAS 18001 or AS/NZS 4801. Both Standards are similar, and as effective as each other.
Leading Certification Bodies
OHSAS 18001 was developed from an existing British Standard by a group of leading certification bodies. AS/NZS 4801 was developed by Australian and New Zealand Standards associations.
AS/NZS 4801 is primarily concerned with the elimination of work-related injury, while OHSAS 18001 is committed to the prevention of injury and ill health within a management system. In other words, the latter is more about the health of the workforce.
In both cases, however – and the main focus of integrated safety management system certification – is to provide an injury and illness-free workplace.
Dealing With Risk
One thing has to be said: risk is part of our daily lives, and some workplaces carry more risk than others. We know accidents happen, at home, at work, on our roads, and so on. Nothing can eliminate this.
The aim of a safety management system, however, is to assess and manage risk, thus reducing it.
More often than not with Standards, we see the integration of key management areas. And with health and safety, the obvious ones seem to be environmental management and quality management.
Generally speaking, those organisations that pose the biggest environmental threat, are also those with the most risks in the workplace – such as construction, mining, transport et cetera.
Key Role For Management
Integrated management system training goes a long way towards minimising the risk, whilst improving the quality of not only the organisation’s product or service, but the overall business.
Auditing plays a key role in management system, particular high risk areas, such as workplace safety and environmental management. Integration can bring quite substantial savings, by reducing duplication and downtime during auditing.
Consider a chemical company, for example. By reducing the number and amount of chemicals used, the organisation is minimising the risk of polluting the environment, but reducing the danger to the employees handling the chemicals. It’s a win-win.
In turn, the customer sees the organisation taking responsibility for its actions, which then creates the image of quality. Pretty straightforward, right?
With integrated safety management system certification in place, and promoted through the its marketing material, an organisation shows itself to be ethical, moral and responsible. It is taking clearly defined steps to improve how it does business.
This will improve that organisation’s reputation, as well as opening doors to larger contracts and government tenders.
Effective risk management through integrated management system training is not just for those industries considered to be ‘high risk’. All workplaces – even offices – contain potential risks.
Risk Is Everywhere
For the year ending June 30, 2014, the most common type of injuries sustained were Sprain or Strain (33%), followed by Chronic joint or muscle conditions (21%) and Cut/open wound (14%). Of the 531,800 persons who experienced a work-related injury or illness during that time, 181,200 (34%) were injured through lifting, pushing, pulling or bending.
These are injuries that can occur in any workplace, even offices, which is why all organisations can benefit from integrated safety management system certification and training.
And this is why a business should never settle for an off-the-shelf solution. Safety management systems must be tailored to the individual organisation, as should be the training. It might be easy to purchase a management system online and implement it yourself – it might even be cheaper – but in the long run, the cost could be far greater.
No business owner wants the responsibility of an employee’s injury or death on their conscious – and they certainly don’t want to be facing large fines or even imprisonment. The very presence of a certified safety management system tells authorities that the commitment is there.