Why your workplace health and safety may be out of date

When an accident occurs in the office, often the workplace health and safety plan is put under scrutiny. If it is found that the organisation could have prevented the injury and was negligent, organisations can be found liable and face serious penalties.

Workplace injuries are more common than you might think. According to the June 2018 Australian Bureau of Statistics report on work-related injuries, 563,600 Australian workers experienced a work-related injury or illness in the past 12 months.

While you may believe your workplace health and safety plan is up to date, there may be new requirements, technology, and updated practices that you don’t know about. There could also potentially be workplace culture elements that could be contributing to a lack of safety.

Reduce workplace stress

Work-related injuries can occur when employees are stressed and/or tired. Contributing factors include working long hours, a heavy workload, or conflicts with co-workers. Stress and tiredness can lead to a lack of concentration and then to potential accidents in the workplace. There should be a plan in place in the workplace to identify ways of reducing stress to therefore reduce workplace injury.

No alcohol in the workplace

This may be common sense for most businesses, yet there are reports that identify alcohol and drugs as a contributor to workplace-injuries. Perhaps you serve alcohol at work parties or have after work drinks in the office. Understand that if someone hurts themselves while intoxicated in the workplace, you could still be liable. If employees enjoy having a drink after work, it may be a good idea to take it to a local bar instead of the workplace.

Accessible emergency equipment

Emergency equipment is the first line of response. These items, such as fire extinguishers, disability evacuation equipment, and defibrillators, should be made known to all employees in the WHS plan and made easily accessible.

According to the most recent release data by AIHW, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. It has also been reported as many as 30,000 sudden cardiac arrests take place in Australia each year. Should there be a need for a defibrillator due to cardiac arrest, businesses do not need to solely rely on the response time of emergency services, with the use of a defibrillator dramatically increasing chance of survival within the first three to five minutes of cardiac arrest.

Learn emergency procedures

Setting a procedure ensures all employees know what needs to be done should an emergency occur. Make sure everybody in the workplace knows how to use emergency equipment, who is trained in first aid and how to evacuate the building.

A safety officer, and a deputy safety officer in case of an absence, should be appointed in the office and should be updated on all emergency procedures.

Regularly review your risk control measures

Things change, and staff come and go. Make sure your plans and procedures are still relevant – it might be as simple as updating the list of staff who work there, or organising an annual visit from a WHS professional.

While it is impossible to prevent all workplace accidents, with the right planning, procedures and equipment in place, you can definitely minimise the risk and reduce the severity of any possible injuries.

Few things are more important than the health and wellbeing of your staff and visitors. Some forethought and planning can go a long way towards reducing incidents and lowering the workplace injury rate of workers in Australia.

Belinda Lyone, General Manager, COS