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Who's Responsible For Workplace Safety?

The person reading this is responsible for safety. That’s you!

Last year 190 Australians were fatally injured at work. Please take a moment to consider the fact that the equivalent of 9 AFL on field teams were killed at their place of work in 2017. How did this happen? Who is responsible for safety in our workplaces?

Workplace safety is the responsibility of every employee, contractor & visitor. But employee, contractor & visitor buy in continues to be one of the greatest safety challenges organisations face.

How many times have we heard:

“I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, I don’t need to be told about safety”

“I’m just walking around the site, I don’t need safety shoes”

“I’m a contractor, your rules don’t apply to me”

“I didn’t know I was supposed to do it safely”

Too often participation in safety management seems to be one of double standards, with people taking it upon themselves to interpret whether or not the organisation’s OH&S policies and procedures (OH&S Management System) apply to them.

So, if we return to our shocking statistic, 190 Australians were fatally injured at work in 2017, how do we remove the road blocks to safety buy in?

It’s more than signage, slogans and statistics; it’s about human behaviour.

Leadership commitment: An OH&S policy is not worth the paper it’s written on without demonstrated leadership commitment. Top management must lead by example and dispel any perception that the organisation is merely ticking regulatory or legislative requirements. By taking responsibility for establishing and communicating the OH&S policy and objectives, top management sets the tone for employee, contractor and visitor behaviour. Commitment by top management to providing healthy and safe working conditions needs to be demonstrated by providing adequate resources, promoting improvement, and enabling consultation with and participation by all workers in the OH&S Management System (OHSMS.)

Worker participation: Who best to understand the day to day realities of performing work tasks than those who perform the tasks themselves. Facilitating worker participation and consultation enables the development of realistic and effective safe work practices that workers identify with and commit to. As well as building trust between top management and workers, organisations can benefit from reduced sick and lost time injury days as workers feel respected and valued. Participation and consultation can be formal or informal but most importantly it needs to be a two-way process of discussion and listening; tool box meetings, OH&S suggestion boxes and OH&S representatives are all opportunities for worker participation to the OHSMS.

Promote OH&S culture: Organisations who actively promote health and safety as part of their organisation’s values develop an OH&S culture. How many of us have visited sites where we’ve thought “nah, they never check I’m wearing my safety boots” or “yikes, have I got my safety boots; they are sticklers for OH&S.” Chances are the sticklers for OH&S don’t have a Safety Boots Police Force on board; rather each and every member of that organisation is empowered to police their OHSMS. An OH&S culture goes beyond policies & procedures; stakeholders take ownership of the OH&S values and guide appropriate behaviour on behalf of the organisation. They do not see risk and hazard management as someone else’s responsibility; they act themselves.

The message is simple.

We are all responsible for safety.

Please consider the horrific statistics; 190 Australians fatally injured at work during 2017. Don’t allow your workers, colleagues, contractors or visitors to risk their safety by not buying into OH&S.

ISO Helper develop, implement & maintain user friendly, compliant OH&S Management Systems

How have you achieved OH&S buy in your organisation? Leave your comments below so we can all share in your success.