Improving Our Global WHS Performance

WHS StatsAccording to the most recent Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia, 2013 issued by Safe Work Australia our national work related injury fatality rate is reducing but still very high compared to other countries with mature work safety cultures.

While these statistics are a few years old (and show up the time lag in our national WHS data collation) it shows Australia dropping behind a number of benchmark countries in terms of work place fatality rates.

The positive view is that currently our track record is trending in the right direction. We are seeing less work related fatalities reported as percentage of the workforce each year. And another positive take out is that this comparison only shows Australia tracking against some of the most enlightened workplace cultures in the modern world. We would be firmly performing in the upper quartile where compared to the safety record of all United Nations countries.

That said Australian legislators have set ambitious targets to become the country with the lowest number of fatalities. We look forward to Safework Australia publishing an updated 2012 graph that should show an improvement in Australian fatality rates. Much of the continued improvement in our safety record is due to innovative use of technology, recent introduction of legislative changes and the drive for efficient ways to comply with these changing laws.

However challenges remain. The new harmonised workplace health and safety laws took effect in many states on January 1, 2012, and while WA and Victoria have not signed up they are aligned with the new laws.

What many organisations are exposed to is the fact the new laws have made it an obligation now for the business to be able to demonstrate a ‘proactive’ approach to WHS management. Regulators are looking for evidence that there is a WHS plan and strategy in place. They wish to see evidence that staff will be consulted on safety related issues and staff trained in hazard identification and risk control.

Many a company and organisation, particularly those with poor resources, find it difficult bringing this together in a way sufficient to show it has met its WHS obligations.

Another issue for workplaces is how well they are able to address the importance of WHS record keeping. Businesses must be able to demonstrate that they are taking a ‘proactive’ approach to WHS management, and a key to this proactive approach is an obligation to be able to provide regulators with a paper-trail of their WHS strategies and procedures.

If you refer to the Safe Work Australia WHS Code of Practice it states that proper documentation will demonstrate to others (regulators, investors, shareholders, customers) that work health and safety risks are being managed effectively and is a potent indicator of compliance with the WHS Act and Regulations.

As we have explained many times here at Safety Concepts the new harmonised legislation puts greater responsibility on CEOs, executives and managers to produce evidence of proactively managing and monitoring risk and of having proper systems in place. If they are in breach of these requirements they may be prosecuted and face huge fines at both a personal and corporate level.

Many corporates solve this with enterprise style Safety Management Systems. However for those organisations that are resource poor this obligation to provide ‘paper trails’ is often satisfied by using manual systems cobbling together policies and procedures together with spread-sheet databases. Often these are highly fragmented systems with little documentation or workflow.

The challenge then is to develop cost effective WHS systems that integrate seamlessly with business functions, and make WHS reporting and monitoring automatic and effortless. In turn this will drive behaviour throughout the workplace and create a culture of engaged safety.

That’s why we have made it our job at Safety Concepts to seek out world best software and applications that improve WHS workflows and reporting. We have proven that not only does a hosted in the clouds Safety Management System provide real time access to WHS performance across the organisation, it also generates a clear evidence trail of due diligence and compliance at a fraction of the cost of the big SAP type solutions.

That in turn will ensure the organisation meets its obligations under changing WHS laws and do so in the most effective way. We have expert WHS auditors and consultants who can help you meet your compliance needs. Contact us on 1300 773801 or email for a consultant to contact you.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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