If you said, ‘human resources’ and I blurted out ‘workplace health and safety’ would that be a non-sequitur? Or is there a connection?
Let’s drop by Canada for a moment, where the WHS protocols lay out the direct line between the two with complete clarity. ‘Human resource professionals play an important role in ensuring health and safety, as they know the workplace, the employees and their job demands.’
Can’t say it straighter than that. Here’s what you, your HR expert or your team can do to meet those expectations - because a safe, healthy work environment is worth getting aggro about.
‘Safety First’ is a useful mantra in industrial settings where it can be used to drive home the habitual use of proper safety measures. It’s equally relevant as the foundational principle for the hiring and orientation of new employees.
- Give strong preference to applicants with a track record of responsible work practices - because their habits have consequences that go to the safety and wellbeing of all your employees.
- Consider drug testing for those that will operate equipment or engage in overtly physical activities.
- Use high quality, comprehensive materials for orientation, and don’t put new employees to work until they’ve mastered them.
TRAIN, AND MAKE IT FUN
What do training days and hernia operations have in common? They elicit the same level of enthusiasm from your employees.
Ironically, training might just save them from a hernia. Remind them of that! Queensland metal manufacturer Bremco cites lack of training as the top cause of workplace injury, and maintains that professional, relevant and regular safety training is essential for all. So get your team engaged - and here’s how:
- Spark their imagination with safety training word games and other strategies that bring training to life.
- Engage the mind and the body - get them moving
- Bring in an element of friendly competition
- Praise their efforts vociferously, and give them a reward at the end of the day
GIVE PEOPLE A VOICE
How’s your workplace culture? Is there open communication between team members? What about between the workforce and management?
A culture of open communication fosters a proactive approach when it comes to identifying threats to health and safety. This means that accidents ‘waiting to happen’ are more likely to be pointed out - and avoided.
Take your team’s concerns seriously. Quashing them with excuses about cost, loss of productivity or the hassle of installing safer equipment or adopting healthier workplace practice is counterproductive, not to mention dangerous and unethical. Injury, loss of life and the company’s liability when preventable accidents happen is a far greater cost.
Direct your managers and team leaders to encourage employees to be open about their workplace health and safety concerns. Want to go further and really change the game? Give permission for any employee to bypass their supervisor and speak to HR direct, anonymously and without repercussions. Those two steps will go a long way in promoting the open communication that boosts safety, employee morale and your bottom line through cutting losses.
GET CLEAR ABOUT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
It’s your job to be a stickler. A slack approach is an invitation for someone to get hurt.
Being lax about health and safety doesn’t make you a cool and laid back boss, it makes you negligent. And that’s what you’ll be labelled in the event of an accident. Rules aren’t always there to be broken - they’re there to be enforced, and it pays. Set rules clearly, and penalise for violations. Suspension or dismissal is totally acceptable for both ongoing minor offenses and grievous first offenses.
A word to the wise: injured employees and their lawyers can be quick to turn on employers. Having clear policies, expecting adherence and enforcing accountability for failure are necessary and protect you from this. Ignore it at your peril.
YOU NEED HELP - PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you’re a startup, or an established business playing with fire by neglecting workplace health and safety, it pays to consult with professionals about developing and implementing a comprehensive plan.
The peace of mind it brings - and the tangible protection - is invaluable. That gnawing anxiety about ‘what if something bad happens’ becomes a sense of having things properly under control. So be rigorous: smart hiring, thorough training, good communication and workplace accountability. You’ll thank yourself in the long term and the short, and be glad you’re aggro about something that reduces both injuries and costs.