For the past five years improving workplace health and safety (WHS) has been a high priority for Australia's federal and state governments. When you look at the incidence of workplace injury and illness, their interest is not surprising.
According a March 2012 report from Safe Work Australia “The cost of work-related injury and disease to workers, their employers and the community for the 2008–09 financial year data is estimated to be $60.6 billion.” The cost equates to almost five per cent of Australia's gross domestic product, and is calculated using a variety of considerations such as lost productivity, overtime, loss of income and future earnings, social welfare payments arising from the injury or illness, and medical costs.
Three months later, in a July 2012 report by the same authority noted: “In 2009–10, 638,400 workers reported they had incurred a work-related injury in the previous 12 months. This equates to an incidence rate of injury of 57.9 per 1000 workers.”
Given the size of the issue and its economic impact, government interest in the topic is understandable.
Much of the effort in this area since 2008 has focused on the development and subsequent introduction of consistent WHS legislation across the nation. The aims of this included a reduction in employer confusion due to conflicting compliance requirements from state to state; the establishment of safety best practices; a reduction in WHS incidents leading to a reduction in the WHS costs borne by employers, employees and the community; and ultimately, increased national productivity.
Unfortunately, what started off as a good idea hasn't eventuated quite as hoped. WHS legislation still varies in each state, although all legislation is largely similar in so far as a safe work place must be provided, with adequate training and supervision made available, and workplace hazards and risks must be controlled.
The other constant is enforcement. Employers and employees face punitive and monetary penalties for breaching WHS legislation. It is therefore important that in each workplace, across every jurisdiction, every worker receives the appropriate level of training, instruction and supervision to do their job safely.
In fact, WHS regulations stipulate that employers, employees, representatives and others take approved training and refresher courses so that everyone understands the WHS regulations. The training should advise all parties of new regulations and procedures, and it should ensure everyone understands how these procedures are to be put in place in the workplace to help reduce work-related accidents and illness.
With some legislation relevant to the whole of Australia, and some only relevant to specific states, it's essential that companies keep track of any training across each jurisdiction that applies to their employees and their type of industry.
Companies must be able to monitor and document the training required and received by each employee, their attendance at courses and certifications received (if relevant). When qualifications are due to expire, or when refresher courses are due, companies must take responsibility for ensuring and documenting staff attendance.
This may not be a problem in a small business when dealing with only a few staff, but for medium to large enterprises, this high level of monitoring can be a time-consuming nightmare. It becomes especially difficult if the business is in an industry with high staff turnover.
Once staff numbers start to grow into the 100s and 1000s, the most effective way of managing the WHS requirement for training is by implementing an automated, comprehensive Safety, Risk and Claims Management solution, such as ComOps’ Salvus. Salvus has been designed around applicable safety, risk, quality and compliance standards. It provides an accountable and traceable compliance method, from identification of risks to automated notifications, safety and risk analysis, mitigation and reporting.
Part of its functionality includes the ability to monitor training, certifications, licenses and so on. It provides the business with automatic alerts as due dates near. It offers visibility into training requirements and allows the business to take action to eliminate or minimise risk by ensuring training and skills are kept current.
In the newly standardised WHS environment, regular training is not an option; it's essential for compliance. But that should never be the sole reason for engaging in training. The most compelling drivers – for employee, the business and the community – are the safety, productivity and the bottom line benefits that come from well-trained employees who understand how to identify and avoid potential hazards in the workplace