10 things you should know

Running a small business is hard work, but that doesn’t mean safety has to be. Here are 10 things you can do that will help your business comply with work health and safety regulations and keep your team safe.

  1. Get a workers compensation policy if you need one.
  2. Talk about safety and get input from your workers.
  3. Make sure everyone is properly trained and understands how to do their work safely.
  4. Establish safe working procedures.
  5. Provide adequate workplace facilities.
  6. Use personal protective equipment.
  7. Record any workplace injuries in a register.
  8. Notify us of serious incidents
  9. Have a recover at work program.
  10. If in doubt, ask for help – give us a call on 13 10 50.

Recovering on the job is good for everyone

Helping a worker recover from injury on the job is good for them and for your business.

Achieving an early recovery may not always be simple, but a worker back in the workplace – even on reduced hours and/or modified duties – is likely to recover faster than they would at home.

The advantages stack up. You retain your worker’s skills and experience, and maintain productivity, while their activity and social contact with workmates boosts recovery and morale. Not only that, but it may help reduce your premiums and the cost to your business of hiring and training a replacement worker to fill their shoes.

So what’s the norm? Well, most injured workers need little or no time off work. For those that do, the vast majority (more than 80 per cent) return to and recover at work within the first 13 weeks. In contrast, the longer a worker is off work the less likely they are to ever return , so helping someone recover at work is clearly the smart option.

Once you, your worker, doctor and insurer agree on a recover at work plan, you can help the worker safely ease themselves back into the workplace.

Here are five tips for helping an injured worker recover on the job:

  1. Pave the way – keep co-workers in the loop with developments. Co-workers should understand that an agreed recover at work strategy is vital for their workmate’s timely recovery and that they can expect the same help if they are ever injured at work. It also helps prevent co-workers jumping to conclusions and assuming the worker is getting ‘special treatment’ or not ‘pulling their weight’.
  2. Touch base – once your worker is back in the workplace, chat to them regularly and see how they are going. If the worker flags a problem, you will hopefully be able to resolve it before it turns into a bigger issue. Ask their supervisor to keep you up to speed with the worker’s progress. Close monitoring enables any necessary adjustments to the recover at work plan.
  3. Wiggle room – be as flexible as possible with agreed working hours so that your worker feels comfortable with arrangements and not under pressure. You also need to know when the worker is going for medical or physiotherapy treatment so you can arrange time off or modify working hours.
  4. Ticket to ride – if the worker is having difficulties getting around (due to a plaster cast, for example) consider arranging a car ride, possibly with a workmate, or investigate public transport options. Talk to your insurer about possible assistance.
  5. Helping hand – consider assigning a colleague as a workplace ‘buddy’ to support your worker. It might be helpful and it can further boost the worker’s confidence by acting as a safety net. It can also strengthen a sense of camaraderie and boost morale, with co-workers recognising the worker is doing their best to recover on the job instead of staying at home.

Get more tips and find out about Return to Work Assist at safework.nsw.gov.au or call us on 13 10 50.

Small employers: know your responsibilities

Small businesses face a unique set of challenges when it comes to workplace injury, and this often results in unnecessary stress for the employer and potentially a longer recovery process for the worker.

So what is the best way to deal with a workplace injury?

First things first

If a worker is injured in your workplace, there are some things you, the employer, must do. These include:

  1. provide first aid and make sure your worker gets the care they need
  2. contact your insurer within 48 hours of the incident, notifying them of the injury
  3. record the incident in your register of injuries
  4. help your worker recover at work.

The first three steps can be completed in quick succession, but the fourth step is more involved. Don’t worry; these tips will help guide you through the workers compensation return to/recover at work process.

Know your role

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) oversees the NSW workers compensation system. It’s their job to make sure the system is fair, transparent and effective for the people it supports – that is, workers and employers like you.

SIRA has published a number of easy-to-understand guides to help employers and workers navigate the workers compensation process. The Workers compensation guide for employers is free and available on the SafeWork NSW website. When you know your employer rights and responsibilities you are better equipped to manage a workplace injury and the process will go smoothly. Of course, you can always contact SIRA and/or your insurer with any questions you may have.

Apply for assistance

You pay insurance premiums for a reason. Talk with your insurer and see if you can apply for assistance. Your insurer may offer special assistance to eligible small employers.

Assistance programs like this are good for everyone, helping you and your worker get back to business as usual.

Engage with your worker’s support team

Talk with your worker’s return to work support team. The insurer, nominated treating doctor and health professionals have experience and expertise you can use.

Find out which tasks your worker can perform, which ones they should avoid, whether workplace modifications might help, as well as any practical steps you can take to make their return to work easier and successful. Remember, these people are here to help you and your worker, so make the most of it.

Maintain a dialogue with your worker

Be sure to check in with your worker. Whether they are off work for a period of time or working modified duties, good communication ensures a healthy relationship and improved return to work outcomes. A weekly conversation means any concerns that arise can be identified and dealt with straight away so they don’t turn into problems.

Prevention is better than a cure

As an employer, you are responsible for the health and safety of your workers. By law you must:

  • talk to your workers to identify any potential hazards
  • put systems in place for the safe use and maintenance of equipment, plant and machinery
  • provide suitable information, instruction and supervision, especially to new workers
  • ensure there are adequate workplace facilities including toilets, drinking water, washing and eating facilities as well as first aid
  • record any workplace incidents in a register of injuries and respond to hazards quickly
  • prepare emergency plans
  • manage the risks of any remote and isolated work
  • have a return to work program to help injured workers with their recovery and return to work.

By meeting these requirements, you minimise the risk of workplace injury and are prepared should an incident occur.

Incentives for good workplace health and safety practices

Many insurers provide premium-based incentives to improve workplace health and safety, and return to work outcomes. Speak to your insurer to find out if and how you can take advantage of these incentives.

Learn more

Contact your insurer for specific information about your policy, and the programs and incentives available to you. You can learn more about NSW workers compensation and workplace health and safety at safework.nsw.gov.au or by calling 13 10 50.

Wicked boss keeps workers safe

Staff at Wicked Berries create dream treats in a model workplace, thanks to the diligence of their not-so-wicked employer.

A focus on worker safety and getting back to basics has helped Wicked take out Best Workplace Health and Safety Practices in a Small Business at the 2014 WorkCover SafeWork Awards.

Wicked Berries specialise in indulgent chocolate dipped strawberries and deliver their products Australia wide.

Packing and handling forms a big part of the work involved, which comes with its own safety risks, but Wicked’s Director, Mr Kerry O’Sullivan, a former baker well-aware of workplace safety, is set on making sure his facilities are safe.

“I guess because it’s not something a lot of businesses tend to focus on; because we’re doing franchising I just made it a habit of ticking all the boxes on that side of things,” Kerry said.

While the micro business employs just five staff, developing a work health and safety system was a key strategy to support the growing business in the long term.

The company is currently branching out as a franchise and they know work health and safety is a crucial factor to attract staff and ensure productivity.

“Imagine having 40 or 50 franchises and then having to implement it all later,” said Kerry.

“If it’s happening right from the start it forms part of the procedure for everyone.

“If everyone’s safe at work it means better productivity and a better workplace. That’s proven. It covers so many different aspects of a business.”

To win the award, Wicked Berries had to show what risks were identified, how they were addressed and what the outcomes were.

Kerry listed hazardous manual tasks such as the storage and handling of stock boxes, movement of stock and high shelving as challenges they overcame through better practice.

Their innovative safety improvements and adjustments have helped to secure longevity for their enviable zero ‘injuries resulting in time off’ record.

Some of the changes they implemented were machinery safeguards, anti-fatigue mats and visible safety procedures, but by far the most useful and easy were storage boxes that are colour-coded by weight.

“Colour coding boxes was the most dramatic change. The colour coding definitely works It’s so simple,” said Kerry.

“Going up ladders for stock posed a problem.

“Now that heavier items are shelved lower down, workers only have to lift light stock from the top and they’re happy about that.”

Wicked Berries also instituted procedures like staff induction and risk control training and franchisee training and information, making sure work health and safety is deeply embedded in the culture of the business.

Kerry believes the key to his winning workplace is walking the walk and says the award gives them credibility as a workplace with integrity that cares about the welfare of its staff.

“Having everything in place is one thing, enforcing it is another,” Kerry said.

“Get the basics right first.

“Assess your business independently, judge it on its own merits and find out what needs to be addressed.

“Your employee is number one so find out the risks and tackle that.”

Workplace safety and the law: 10 things every small business should know

Running a small business is hard work, but that doesn’t mean safety has to be. Here are 10 things you can do that will help your business comply with work health and safety regulations and keep your team safe.

  1. Make sure you have a workers compensation policy if you need one – ie if you employ workers on a full-time, part-time or casual basis and pay more than $7500 in annual wages.
  2. Make time to talk about safety and get input from your workers. For example, regular ‘toolbox talks’ are a great way to keep safety top of mind and drill down into health and safety concerns.
  3. Make sure everyone, especially new or young workers, is properly trained and understands how to do their work safely.
  4. Be aware of potential safety issues (for example manual handling, working from heights, missing guards on machinery) and put in place safe working procedures.
  5. Provide adequate workplace facilities such as appropriate lighting, flooring, toilets and access to water.
  6. Have necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) available and keep a few spares and different sizes on hand so everyone is covered.
  7. Record any workplace injuries in a register to get on top of recurring safety problems.
  8. If there is there is a serious safety incident at your workplace notify WorkCover.
  9. Have a recover at work program to help injured workers return to work.
  10. If in doubt ask for help – give WorkCover a call on 13 10 50 or speak with your industry or business chamber contact.