Safety training for workers
Three questions should always be asked in OHS. First, who gets injured? Second, who can prevent that injury? Finally, who will be prosecuted?
The answer to the first question is always the worker. It is the worker's life or quality of life that is endangered at work. So should the answer to question two be the worker? Yes and no. Yes, the worker should be able to identify risks or hazards, and address such issues to prevent injury. Then why don't they? The answer is illuminating.
Overwhelmingly, workers who suffer injuries at work do so despite utilising their commonsense with the intention of benefiting the business. Contrary to what many employers may believe, the compelling evidence is that workers are doing all they can to avoid injury. So the answer to question two is not the workers – it is the business.
The answer to the third question is the business, its directors and in certain circumstances, its managers.
So what is the learning?
1. The business must own and implement an OHS safety system to avoid injuries.
2. The commonsense exercised by uneducated workers is not safe.
Let me give you two examples of people exercising commonsense which could be fatal. The photos below show an electrician in Bangkok working on power lines without any protection from multiple lines, with inadequate 'working at heights' equipment and with no PPE. The second photo shows workers in Nepal travelling on the roof of a vehicle over bumpy roads. Clearly each at-risk worker weighed up the risk, looked at what had to be done and applied his or her commonsense. In Australia, we all know the actions of the culprits in these pictures are frighteningly unsafe.
How do you make workers exercise safe thinking so they are the first line of safety in the business? The answer is not complicated. Commonsense is derived from education and experience. If an employer takes the steps below, a worker's commonsense will become safety sense.
Below are the key safety steps for businesses:
- Teach workers how to identify and assess risks and hazards, and train them to think about what immediate action they can take to prevent further risk of injury.
- Develop a system that is documented, that inducts and trains workers in safety, requires regular assessment and audits and have the documents readily accessible and understandable to all workers.
- Ensure the business works at prioritising risks based on the danger levels and frequency of risks, and take all steps that are reasonably practicable to eliminate or control such risks.
- Develop a documented reporting structure that advises, manages and directs how the safety management system is performing and what further work is required.
Andrew Douglas is the Managing Director of Douglas LPT, an integrated legal, HR, recruiting and training business. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the loose leaf publication, The OHS Handbook, and writes on workplace law issues such as Industrial Relations, Employment law, OHS, Equal Opportunity, Privacy, Surveillance and Workers Compensation. He is the principal of the legal division of Douglas LPT and appears in courts, tribunals and Commissions throughout Australia.