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An Australian worker was killed at work every 2 days in January, 2020!

As at 30 January, Safe Work Australia there have been 15 Australian workers killed at work in 2020. That is one person every two days!  A shocking number.

Last year (2019), Safe Work Australia reported a total of 162 workplace fatalities for 2019, 18 more than the previous year!  The highest number of deaths are related to vehicle accidents (mainly company workers at fault), falls, falling/moving objects.

It seems questionable whether the WHS laws and Industrial manslaughter laws in WA, Victoria, (coming into effect 2020), ACT, Queensland, & the Northern Territory (commencing 1 Feb, 2020)  are acting as a deterrent.

The industrial manslaughter laws can inflict imprisonment of around 20 years and $5 million in fines for an owner or person responsible for negligently causing death and up to $16 million for body Corporates.  There however, have been few convictions.

As an SME, What Do You Need To Do?

As an SME business, you need to ensure you have done your due diligence, especially if you are in a moderate or high-risk business.  However, often, low risk businesses fail to address WHS properly and incur many injuries.  In 2019, there were the Workcover Statistics for 2017-18 show there were 107,335 serious claims!

To avoid penalties and jail time, all businesses are required identify all potential hazards and risks, develop proper control systems and ensure they train their leaders and workers with in-depth knowledge of the risks in their work environment and the correct control measures they need to use to keep themselves and others safe. 

Here are our top tips

  • Remember: The aim of all WHS policies should be to eliminate injuries and every leader should do their best to ensure risks are eliminated or risk-controlled properly.Develop a robust and thorough Safety System and Risk Management Framework and ensure it is used regularly.
  • Ensure you have identified all the potential hazards and risks (physical and psychological) in your workplace. Make sure you use WHS tools to ensure you have identified all potential hazards/risks.
  • Make sure EVERY leader and worker is thoroughly trained in the hazards/risks. If you are in a moderate to high-risk business ensuring daily ‘tool-box talks’ by leaders. High-risk activities need regular refresher training and needs to be realistic and impactful focusing on both technical and behavioural aspects need to be addressed. Ensure staff demonstrate the activity correctly and do regular activity checks. Make sure safety check lists are up-to-date. In addition, ensure your leaders/trainers keep accurate training records and evidence that your employees remain competent and compliant.
  • Ensure WHS performance responsibilities are clearly outlined and objectives are outlined in every leader and workers performance goals.
  • Develop a high-care factor, safety culture. Human factors are a major part of WHS injuries and fatalities. Therefore, a no BS safety culture needs to be developed. It is unfortunate that many employees do not feel safe to speak up about near-misses or concerns they have. As leaders/owners in a business you need to ensure an ability to hear from the front-line in an open and sharing way. You must also be seen to take action and proactive action as required.
  • Ensure leaders are highly visible and checking the safety of how workers are working. This should involve safety walks and talks with the workers.
  • Ensure a WHS Expert conducts a formal independent review of your safety systems and controls to ensure they are effective and a correct reflection of your processes.
  • Ensure all company directors, senior officers and managers understand the implications of the legislation.
  • Consider your business insurance arrangements and be clear on what they will and will not pay for in terms of WHS fines