To determine the most common breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS) practices – you only have to look at the most common causes of injury in Australian workplaces every year:
- Body Stressing (Overexertion). The leading cause of workplace injury in Australia. It includes repetitive strain injuries and injuries incurred from lifting heavy objects.
- Tripping, slipping and falling. This is a very common cause of workplace injury – encompassing everything from slipping on a wet floor tripping over a chord to falling off a chair, ladder or down a flight of stairs.
- Being struck by objects. Serious injury or death can result from something as simple as a hammer being dropped from an upper level of a construction site.
The fact that these injuries are still occurring means that breaches are also occurring, whether committed by employees failing to follow OHS procedures, or employers not taking adequate preventative measures. Your organisation needs to be protecting employees, customers and anyone else that visits your premises and can be at harm of risk.
According to statistics from Safe Work Australia, and their report titled ‘Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Statistics Australia 2018’ – the most common cause of work-related fatality is from vehicle collision. Furthermore, the industries where most of these fatalities occur are as follows: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Transport, Postal and Warehousing.
Some other causes of workplace injuries include sharp objects, bacterial, chemical and electrical hazards, excessive noise and exposure to UV radiation.
While employees have an obligation to observe OHS procedures and report potential hazards, the onus is also on employers to maintain a safe workplace for their staff, customers and visitors.
The introduction of federal OH&S laws (Work Health and Safety Act) in 2015 provides for even more scrutiny and greater penalties than those awarded in the past. The Act requires employers to do the following:
- Exercise greater due diligence to remain informed about OHS matters
- Expand their duty of care to include contractors and casuals
- Consult with employees about OH&S matters in a particular way
- Accept criminal consequences for discriminatory acts
- Allow unions expanded right of entry with regards to OHS matters
In light of this legislation, employers need to be certain that they are not committing any direct breaches of OHS practices, and thus placing employees or visitors to their workplace in a high-risk situation.
Furthermore, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) builds on the act and sets out how employers can fulfil duties and obligations, as well as the specific processes that support the OHS Act. For example, they include requirements for:
- Safe operation of major hazard facilities and mines
- Training for high risk work
- Managing and removing asbestos
- Licenses for specific activities.
(It’s important to note that these regulations came into effect on 18th June 2017 and replaced the older OHS Regulations of 2007).
A breach can also be indirect, such as not providing adequate training, so if you are in any doubt about your compliance, now’s the time to undertake compliance training for yourself and your employees.
The types of training that you should be implementing include:
- Induction training for new employees
- Hazard identification and control
- Safe manual handling
- Office safety
- Mandatory training such as first aid and certificates of competency
- On-the-job training for specialised roles
Injuries are not only physical. They can be psychological as well, so make sure your anti-bullying and sexual harassment procedures are adequate and up to date. Again, compliance training as part of a learning management system is the best way to manage such risks to your business.
The legislation is the government’s response to our unacceptably high level of workplace injuries, but it remains to be seen if these stringent obligations and harsher penalties will lead to a reduction in breaches of OHS practices. However, you can do your part through your compliance obligations, and ensuring the safety of staff, and thus your organisation.
Safetrac can assist with your WHS/OHS complinace training
We provide engaging online training courses that are designed in conjunction with subject matter experts to ensure that content is up to date with current legislation and industry regulations. Our content and software are developed in Australia and designed according to adult learning principles for high knowledge retention, relevancy and deliverability.