Illness or injury in the workplace is more common than you might think. No matter what industry you’re in, the safety of your employees is something that can’t be ignored when running a business.
According to Safe Work Australia preliminary data there were 107,355 serious workers’ compensation claims in 2014/15, which equates to 5.9 serious claims per million hours worked. The cost of work-related incidents to the Australian economy was $61.8 billion.
Most of the injuries during this time were musculoskeletal disorders, which led to 90% of serious claims – the most common were traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries (43.8%).
You must protect your business
The onus is on Australian business owners to navigate the complex world of workplace safety, which means understanding workers’ compensation requirements. Workers’ compensation insurance is compulsory for business owners in all states and territories.
This form of insurance pays employees if they are injured at work or become sick due to their work. The payment can cover their wages if they’re not fit to work, medication expenses and rehabilitation.
Employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure that the workplace is a safe working environment, which extends to events where employers are technically off the clock, such as work Christmas parties.
Uninsured employers may still be able to claim for workers’ compensation benefits for staff in case of injury or illness, so check with your local authority. There’s lots of great information on the Safe Work Australia site.
Each state and territory has independent regulators and administrators in place to run workers’ compensation, so make sure you become familiar with your local authorities. The rules while similar differ between each state and territory.
Ways to manage the risks
Wise employers foster a health and safety culture within the workplace, providing regular communication around safety and injury management to raise awareness among staff.
This process often encourages staff to identify potential injury or illness threats. Rewarding positive contributions to health and safety in the workplace can have a significant impact on the cultural change within an organisation.
Taking immediate action after an incident to minimise effects and make sure people are supported is paramount.
Make sure your workplace has emergency response plans for evacuations and medical response systems in place. Be sure to conduct an investigation to understand how the incident occurred and document everything, including taking photos of where the incident occurred and then take steps to prevent it from happening again.
This is an area of business that’s important to take seriously. Even if you’ve dealt with this area of your business within the last six months, it’s important to revisit safety issues regularly, so make sure you schedule regular audits, and include your staff in the process.
Five steps to managing health and safety in the workplace
Efficiently managing work health and safety risks within a workplace means having a systematic approach, which involves five key elements. These are:
1. Governance: Ensure your workplace has the organisational framework, procedures, policies and processes in place.
2. Prevention: Develop specific hazard policies and procedures for your workplace.
3. Response: If a safety incident takes place, you must take steps to remove the hazard that caused it, and implement changes to stop it from happening again.
4. Managing hazards: An effective risk and hazard management methodology will allow you to identify hazards that pose a risk to your workers and resolve them before they cause injury or illness.
5. Recovery: Where a worker has been injured, the employer has responsibilities to put in place a rehabilitation management system for workplace injury or illness.
Steadfast Group Limited (ASX: SDF) is the largest general insurance broker network and group of underwriting agencies in Australasia, with growing operations in Asia and Europe. The broker network has 361 general insurance brokers who receive superior market access, exclusive products and services backed by the size and scale of the Steadfast Group. Brokers in the network have access to over 160 products and services which support their business and allow them to focus on their clients' insurance and risk management needs.
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