If it’s not safe, speak up!

A recent survey of more than 2000 workers found that one in five have made a complaint about a workplace safety issue that was never fixed.

One in 10 workers were too afraid to report safety issues because they might be fired and one in 20 have been demoted after making a safety complaint at work.

The survey also found that 37 per cent of workers have witnessed a colleague not reporting their injury at work for fear of losing their job.

Consultation is a good way to use the knowledge and experience of your staff to achieve a safer and healthier workplace.

Through talking about safety, you can become more aware of hazards in the workplace and workers can provide suggestions about how the work could be done safely.

This short video outlines the basics of consultation at work and is available in Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese.

Consultation is key at IOH

Getting an injured worker back to work can be tricky, with a whole range of people involved such as doctors, employers, treatment providers and the worker.

Often at the centre of that is the Rehabilitation Consultant, supporting everyone involved and making sure everyone is kept well informed.

It’s a high pressure job with the potential for stress, as emotions run high and priorities compete with one another.

So it’s absolutely vital that the health and safety of the Rehabilitation Consultant is taken care of.

IOH Area Manager Paula Cormack is responsible for doing just that. IOH is a rehabilitation services provider, and Paula is responsible for managing seven Rehabilitation Consultants who work from Liverpool to Goulburn.

“There can be a high stress element to the role of a Rehabilitation Consultant, because there’s a lot of different people involved with a lot of different agendas that they have to deal with, Paula said.

“Although the risks to the Rehabilitation Consultations aren’t overwhelmingly physical, there’s huge potential for stress.”

The best way to deal with this, she said, comes down to good workplace consultation.

“Using formal and informal forms of consultation allows the Rehabilitations Consultants to share their stories helps us to identify problems, and then tackle them,” Paula said.

Given the large geographical area that the Rehabilitation Consultants have to cover, Paula said she and her team have relied on technology to do this.

They use a program called Slack – an online tool that allows them to share messages in real time, hold video chats, and upload documents to share.

“My guys share information every day. Whether it be something interesting they’ve read that might help with their role, or information that others might need to know about a site that they’ve just been to. The beauty about it is that it’s in real time, and it’s versatile” Paula said.

“I guess what we’re trying to do is to create an environment where we don’t have to think about it too much, so it’s just seamless and it becomes second nature to talk about things that relate to their health and safety.”

They combine this with more formal workplace consultation methods, such as one-on-one meetings every fortnight, monthly team meetings; and a keeping a Register of Injuries, where any workplace injuries – no matter how minor – are formally recorded.

“All of these things provide a really great environment where everyone can feel relaxed and confident enough to raise issues and discuss safety concerns, because at the end of the day we want to tackle potential injuries before they happen,” Paula said.

“From there, the benefits to our business just flow. We have a happier workforce, lower injury rates and incidents, and a more productive business.”

If you would like more information on how to establish good workplace consultation methods, visit our website or call 13 10 50.

If you’re a small business operator, you can also request a free workplace advisory visit. By doing so, you could be eligible for a small business rebate of up to $500.

Driving the wellness message home

When it comes to making a dent in improving the health of Australian ‘truckies’, Di Carroll is something of a prime mover.

The determined crusader and her independent Tarcutta-based Trans-Help Foundation are making significant inroads into the road freight transport industry’s ‘wellness’ dilemma.
Operating a 24/7 national 1300 support line and four mobile preventative health check units, Di and her 40 volunteers have helped more than 10,000 transport families since 2005.

“My first husband Gary was killed in the industry, crushed by a falling load of logs, and my dad was a truck driver, as are my brother and nephews, so we’ve been around trucks all our lives,” said the mum of six and grandmother of four.

“The foundation brings a lot of personal experience and that’s what the guys relate to; we can go out there and talk the talk.”

Recognising workers’ reluctance to use company-run counselling services – due to a fear of being benched after flagging health or personal issues – the national charity rolled out its first Mobile Health and Support Units in 2008. The results were staggering; out of 200 participants, more than 75 per cent had medical issues.

“We found that drivers didn’t have access to doctors and if they were able to get a GP appointment, they were usually at the other end of the country,” she said.

“Furthermore, many drivers weren’t taking prescribed medication, either because they couldn’t get to a GP to get a new script or visit a pharmacy.”

A typical example was a 29-year-old driver and father of two who thought he was fine but was actually overweight with high blood pressure and cholesterol and sleep apnoea.

“After we put the wind up him with health check results, he took the next day off work and went to the doctor for a check-up,” she said.

“His doctor told him to thank us as we’d probably helped save his life.”

Equally concerning were the underlying health issues and other factors contributing to fatalities and incidents that Trans-Help volunteers discovered during counselling of widows or drivers.

“Fatigue is everywhere but it masks the underlying issues; for example, we are campaigning hard against energy drinks as we believe these are a major killer in the transport industry,” she said.

Di said Trans-Help was concerned about the promotion of energy drinks as a solution for fatigue, particularly as some drivers consumed too many – often along with No-Doz and Berocca – a potential recipe for disaster.

Equally concerning were the results of transport company visits where volunteers conducted overall health assessments of staff. One had found three out of five mechanics were on anti-depressants to help them cope with work-related stress.

“And these are the guys who repair and maintain the trucks that go out on the roads,” she said.

“I honestly think the biggest problem in the industry is a lack of education, so the more drivers and companies we can reach out to, the better.

“Everyone needs to understand that people’s lives and health are much more important than time slots, allocations and deadlines.”

Find out more at transhelpfoundation.com.au including the charity’s partnership with GP2U, providing truckies with instant access to doctors via video conference using computer, tablet or mobile phone.

The Get Healthy at Work initiative also provides free tools, templates and resources – and online health checks – to address workplace health issues.

To contact WorkCover NSW, call 13 10 50 or visit our website.

Image of slippery floor caution sign

Ten tips to cut slips and trips

A slip or trip in a hazardous workplace doesn’t bear thinking about.

Poor housekeeping is a major cause of incidents in all types of workplaces and if a worker is lucky, they might escape unscathed with nothing more than injured pride.

But as can often be the case, a worker can sustain serious or even horrific injuries.

In, for example, a hospitality environment such as a busy kitchen prone to splashes and spills, the typical injuries are cuts or burns and head injuries.

One particularly nasty incident involved a chef slipping on a pool of water and in an attempt to prevent his fall, he plunged one arm into a pan of boiling oil. He suffered extreme burns requiring surgery and was off work for almost six months.

The implications were not only plummeting productivity and morale but finding a similarly qualified and skilled stand-in chef to keep trading and prevent a slide of the restaurant’s reputation.

So clearly it is in your best interests to do everything you can to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls – but where do you start?

  1. A good kick-off point is to seek input from your workers about potential hazards as they are often more aware of issues due to the nature of their work.
  2. Spend a day walking around your workplace with your health and safety representative monitoring worker activity and tasks, identifying potential slip and trip hazards, and making a checklist.
  3. Recognise housekeeping issues, such as stacked boxes or supplies, cables, general mess or fluid spills or leaks, take appropriate action then monitor areas to avoid any repeat activity.
  4. Provide bins for workers or customers to dispose of rubbish, ensure containers have secure lids, and install drip trays beneath machines or water coolers.
  5. If your workplace is prone to spills, splashes, leaks or moisture build-up, consider installing slip-resistant flooring designed to function even when coming into contact with liquids.
  6. Acid-etching of hard surface floors, including tiles, may help improve slip-resistance properties in wet conditions but can wear off quickly depending on foot traffic volume.
  7. Profiled metal floor surfaces can be effective depending on what type of footwear your workers wear but can be more slippery than expected – mild steel is better as it gets more abrasive and slip resistant with age.
  8. If a path, walkway or stairway has uneven sections or holes, possible fixes include relaying the surface, filling in holes or installing handrails – but if these are impractical, then highlight hazards with eye-catching colours, erect warning signs or improve lighting to make the risk more obvious.
  9. Workers or customers entering your business might carry water or mud inside on their footwear, making the surface slippery – a possible solution is laying slip-resistant rubber or absorbent matting.
  10. Introduce an effective hazard monitoring and cleaning system to react quickly and efficiently to any spills, leaks, splashes or accumulation of material that might pose a risk.

Visit workcover.nsw.gov.au for more advice or call us on 13 10 50.

Image of young worker and supervisor on construction site

Young construction workers at risk

Ensuring all new workers are familiar with health and safety arrangements on your construction site is critical, but young workers in particular require special treatment.

Workers aged 15 to 25 have a 75 per cent greater chance of being hurt, and in NSW 15 people in this age group are injured every day, with building sites one of the highest-risk workplaces. Typical injuries include cuts, lacerations, bruises, contusions, punctures and fractures.

Young construction workers are also more likely to experience manual handling injuries, such as sprains, strains and tears, from incorrect lifting or moving heavy or awkward objects. Falls from height are another major risk and building sites usually have numerous pitfalls such as ladders, floor openings, roofs, scaffolds and stairs.

One reason why young workers are more vulnerable is they are less likely to recognise and be able to cope with potential hazards. This requires knowledge, skills and experience only gained by time on the job. On a building site, this inexperience and lack of awareness can increase the chances of being injured or causing an injury.

So while it might be costly and time-consuming to provide extra training to bring younger workers fully up to speed on potential hazards and safe working practices, it is a smart investment as well as a legal requirement.

A training checklist for young workers could look like this:

  1. Give clear instructions about a job or task and safety precautions to take.
  2. Ask them to repeat your instructions back to you to make sure they understand.
  3. Encourage them to ask you questions about the task or anything else.
  4. Show how to perform a task and get them to demonstrate and repeat it until they have it correct.
  5. Provide written instructions on their job and tasks, and stress the importance of learning these and referring to them as often as required.
  6. Explain and demonstrate equipment and machinery safety features and make sure they understand how these work. Also show them the personal protective equipment required to do tasks safely, where to find it, and how to use it properly.
  7. Ask if they have any questions and make sure you or a supervisor monitors the worker’s progress and performance, especially in their first few weeks, and repeat training where necessary.

Before entering a construction site, all young workers must complete external General Construction Induction Training (GCIT) and hold a current WorkCover-issued GCIT card.

More guidance is available at the WorkCover website or call 13 10 50.

An App-ropriate safety move for Luke

When he’s not belting out rockabilly tunes with The Philistines, Luke Sullivan is likely to be coordinating the myriad of safety aspects of a concert for up to 100,000 people.

After 20 years in the construction industry as a dogman, rigger, concreter and the like, Luke decided to  give his brain cells a workout by completing an economics degree and embarking on a career in workplace safety and risk management. He became involved in civil engineering, logistics, maritime and manufacturing projects, and in 2011 was appointed Principal Advisor for HSE at Staging Connections, one of Australia’s largest event management companies.

“Our events can be anything from a flip chart and projector for 10 people to a Taylor Swift tour with hundreds of thousands of attendees,” Luke explains.

When he joined the company, fatalities and serious incidents at events around the world had placed the event management industry in a state of crisis and Luke was determined to change the company’s safety culture from complacency to commitment.

“I’m an outspoken critic of my own profession and urge my colleagues to adopt a steadfast high-risk focus,” Luke says.

“At any given time we have several tonnes of rigged AV equipment slung directly above people’s heads, which is a huge public risk.”

“Competency and skill-set management are critical in controlling this risk,” Luke says.

To meet the challenge, Luke garnered the support of senior management and set about developing the first risk management system designed specifically for events. He called it Stagesafe and made it available to staff via the company’s intranet and to the wider industry via a mobile app, ‘The Stagesafe App’. The system allows event crews to apply consistent safety controls at all shows, backed by thorough risk assessment and safe work procedures periodically reviewed by subject matter experts.

Given the geographical spread of the business and its young mobile workforce, Luke was aware that communication and consultation were vital in implementing the Stagesafe culture. He launched a quarterly newsletter with a ‘LukedIN’ column raising risk management issues and building safety awareness in the teams, published safety alerts to highlight ‘near misses’, and introduced the ‘Stagesafe Champion’ to acknowledge those who most contribute to the company’s new safety culture.

Within two years of implementing Stagesafe, lost time injuries halved at Staging Connections and Luke won the 2014 SafeWork Awards for best individual contribution to work health and safety by a WHS professional.

Have you made a difference to safety like Luke? We would love to hear from you. Entries in the 2015 SafeWork Awards are now open. Entry is quick, online and free. Apply now at safeworkawards.com.au.