Commemorating lives lost in the workplace

The importance of workplace health and safety is never more poignant than on the annual Day of Mourning on April 28 – where the lives of people lost as a result of workplace incidents or occupational disease are remembered in services held across the state.

Unions NSW hosts a service in Reflection Park, Darling Harbour in conjunction with SafeWork NSW. During this service, families speak about their experiences and attach commemorative cards and flowers to the ‘Memory Lines’ sculpture which is a permanent fixture onsite. It is a very moving ceremony, and a pertinent reminder of the impact that these deaths have – on families, friends and on work colleagues.

Every single person who goes to work should return home safely. Remember, workplace safety is the responsibility of each one of us. You can establish a healthy safety culture in your business by encouraging workers to think and talk about safety, and to look out for hazards and each other.

Start the conversation today. Learn more at safetystartswithyou.

Don’t become a tragic statistic

Construction is one of our most dangerous industries with an unenviable track record of serious injuries and fatalities.

Every year without fail, NSW incident statistics paint a grim picture and the consequences for the injured person, their family and employer’s business are often devastating. And what all cases have in common is that the incident could have been avoided.

Although younger workers are traditionally more likely to be involved in an incident than older and more experienced co-workers, falling from a height appears to be an exception.

Statistics indicate experience is not necessarily a magic bullet.

A few years ago, a total of 32 serious incidents in the ‘falls from heights’ category occurred across various industries, 15 in construction (including six fatalities).

Only two of the seriously injured were teenagers – a 19-year-old labourer who sustained back injuries after falling four metres through a hole and a 17-year-old labourer who fell 14 metres down an unprotected lift shaft.

Almost all of the other 13 injured were older and presumably more experienced workers, four in their 30s, six in their 40s and two aged over 50. In most cases, workers sustained head injuries and or fractures or broken bones.

One worker, a 45-year-old carpenter, fell about three metres as a staircase handrail had been removed, another, a 39-year-old ‘dogman’, fell seven metres after the handrail his harness was attached to came loose. He suffered a broken wrist, ribs, neck, lacerated liver and lungs and had to be placed in an induced coma.

Regardless of circumstances, all these incidents could have been avoided if risks had been properly controlled.

Check out simple safety to find out how easy it is to avoid becoming a statistic.

6 tips for a healthy workplace

If you’re a typical time-poor small employer, why on earth would you want to devote valuable time encouraging your workers to get healthier?

Well, aside from a big morale boost, business benefits could be up to three times more productivity, less sick leave and fewer injuries. In a nutshell, a healthy workplace is very good for your business.

Research reveals healthy workers are fitter, more aware, alert and resilient against illness, and less likely to sustain manual handling injuries and strains.

While bigger businesses with more resources can afford to establish a formal health and wellbeing program, such an expense is probably a bit of a stretch for you. But fear not, there are still plenty of inexpensive things you can do to help make a difference.

Even small changes can have a huge impact, so here are six ideas:

  1. Target workers’ eating habits, especially if lunchtime fare is fast food high in saturated fats such as burger and fries. Install a larger fridge and an extra microwave so more staff can bring in meals from home to reheat – also saving them money.
  2. Offer more flexible working hours so workers go for walks, runs or swims, or attend a gym at lunchtime. Speak to a local fitness club about offering discount memberships for your workers.
  3. Print out simple exercise guides to place around the workplace.
  4. Establish a ‘break-out’ room where workers can make personal phone calls or have some quiet time.
  5. Help workers to quit smoking.
  6. Establish a workplace zero injuries target and promote this over one month, progressing to three then six months.

Get more great ideas about how you can help your workers get healthier and your business better.

What is an EU?

A mentor program, educational scholarships, best-practice due-diligence and workplace safety programs are some of the great outcomes of an enforceable undertaking completed recently.

Enforceable undertakings, or EUs as they are commonly known, are ‘the magical creatures of work health and safety law’, says Andrew Ball, a partner at global law firm DLA Piper.

EUs began in NSW in 2012 and, not surprisingly, interest in them is ‘skyrocketing’ – they offer businesses an alternative to prosecutions and fines when a serious incident occurs at their workplace.

An EU is a commitment that the behaviour that led to the alleged breach of the work health and safety laws has ceased and will not reoccur.

Invariably, successful EUs are creative and innovative; engage with the workplace, industry and community; bring about lasting changes that increase awareness of the importance of safety; and reduce the risk of harm in the future.

In 2013, a worker was injured while attempting to realign a roller on a conveyor belt approximately three metres above the ground, when he stepped out from the elevated work platform onto a waste bin and fell to the concrete floor. The incident was a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

In lieu of prosecution action, an EU was accepted by the employer, SUEZ. With an estimated cost of $200,000, highlights of the undertaking included a mentoring program between SUEZ and a contracting business, where knowledge and expertise in relation to health and safety were shared and an ongoing mentoring relationship was established.

A scholarship for a 10-week work placement was also negotiated with Newcastle University and led to full time employment for the student, along with a commitment from SUEZ for future student work placement opportunities.

SUEZ also developed a ‘Life Saving Rules’ program for its workers and enhanced its due diligence program to reinforce safety leadership within the organisation.

‘We made a conscious decision to learn from the experience and not take the easy way out,’ said Margaret Andrews, the company’s General Manager, Environment, Quality and Safety.

‘The initiatives were concrete, meaningful and challenging and have been a cornerstone to drive improvement in our safety performance.’

Find out more about enforceable undertakings.