If you were assigned the task of cataloguing the scope of potential work health and safety threats at an organisation, how would you go about fully identifying them? It might seem like an easy task to begin with, as you chart obvious physical risks, such as tripping and falling hazards, loose wiring, and ergonomic threats, but after thoroughly cataloguing the ‘obvious’ risks the task becomes more difficult, as you work to identify some less clear-cut OH&S concerns. Further, part of what makes the task so challenging is that overlooking even one potential threat can have a significantly detrimental effect to the business, as it only takes one OH&S incident to bring the reputation of a company into question.
Are employees being provided with a safe, mentally supportive work environment? Are the onsite noise levels within industry compliance? Does everyone onsite know what to do in the event of a work health and safety incident? These are just a few of the less obvious issues that business’ need to consider when developing an effective Occupational Health and Safety strategy. While it may seem challenging to fully address the scope of potential risks, through the implementation of an effective OH&S Management System business’ will be able to thoroughly address these issues in a clear, methodical manner.
Workplaces are changing so OH&S management is changing with them
Over the past few years there has been a significant change in workplace culture, when it comes to developing a safe, supportive work environment, and identifying potential work health and safety concerns. A substantial change has been moving to make business’ more inclusive for everyone, and recognising that an OH&S Management System has to take into consideration a whole range of potential issues, including:
- Protecting staff from overt physical risks, such as spills, potential exposure to chemicals, noise risks, tripping and falling hazards, and so on.
- Ensuring that the business develops a clear system of what to do in the event of a potential issue, that all relevant staff are briefed on. This means not only working to minimise the effects of threats that have already occurred, but also analysing the business operations to identify potential weak points, areas of concerns, and other potentially unsafe factors that could lead to an OH&S issue in the future.
- Understanding that an effective approach to OH&S also takes into consideration non-physical work health and safety threats, such as promoting a safe, supportive work environment, having systems in place to promote positive mental health, and ensuring that staff have support networks in place, should they need them.
To ensure that workplace health and safety practices reflect changes in OH&S laws, rules, and regulations, as well as address concern amongst the community, including staff and customers, about providing safe, secure, hygienic worksites, the International Organization for Standardization has released the new standard for developing safe workplaces, the ISO 45001 OH&S Standards. This came into effect in 2018, and is replacing the old business OH&S standards, the OHSAS 18001 and AS/NZS 4801 standards. Business’ that were certified to one of these standards have until September 2021 to migrate to the new guidelines, to retain their regulatory compliance. This is beneficial to all organisations that implement these standards, as they provide a more inclusive, holistic approach to developing effective work health and safety practices than the old ones did, including adopting a proactive approach to incident management by identifying potential risks before they occur, and implementing preventative measures to ensure that their potential impact to organisations is minimised.
Further, the new standards place emphasis on creating a supportive culture across the whole workplace, and giving all staff the opportunity to contribute to a positive work environment. This takes the form of allowing staff to actively contribute to the development of a safe, secure workplace through input at meetings, providing recommendations, and training them on up-to-date work health and safety practices, thus ensuring that they know what their role and responsibility is in the event of an incident.
One of the primary benefits of implementing the ISO 45001 Standards is they help business’ to proactively identify potential issues, and implement protective measures to prevent them impacting operations. It achieves this by providing a checklist guide of steps that business’ need to take to achieve certification, thus demonstrating that they have made their worksite safe and secure. This checklist helps business’ to identify and protect themselves from potential issues, by:
- Working to ensure both the safety of the organisation as a whole, and its individual staff and personnel. The standards ensure that the OH&S strategies implemented by the organisation align the goals of management with the safety of the individuals that work there, thus providing a cohesive, unified approach to developing effective work health and safety practices. This differs from the previous guidelines, which focused exclusively on managing incidents in and of themselves.
- Primarily focusing on developing a physically and mentally safe work environment for both management and staff. This means working to develop the safest, most supportive OH&S strategies for them as both individuals and part of a team. This means that the standards work at not only developing a legally compliant workplace, but that they can also improve staff morale, reduce downtime, and provide an overall more productive, enthusiastic, environment for everyone there.
- Ensuring that the chances of overlooking a potential OH&S threat are significantly minimised, by involving both management and staff in the process of developing effective OH&S strategies for the business. By getting more people involved in the development of a compliant, safe workspace, people will be able to brainstorm ideas, discuss potential problems and solutions, talk through ideas to come up with the most streamlined, effective solution, and so on. This active participation process is more hands-on than in the previous standards, which means there is a greater chance of identifying potential issues, and collectively coming up with an effective solution that benefits everyone.
In short, through utilising a wider scope in how it develops effective OH&S practices, the ISO 45001 Standards work towards the same goal that the previous standards did – keeping employees safe from potential OH&S threats while they work – in a much more effective, cohesive manner. The implementation of these standards demonstrates a commitment from business’ to go above and beyond when it comes to creating a hazard and risk-free, caring work culture.
If you would like to know how these OH&S standards could be applied to your business to help it achieve regulatory compliance, improve its reputation, and develop a positive work experience for everyone, then please give Anitech’s safety systems consultants a call today on 1300 802 163. By giving them a rundown of your workplace, its structure, and what the work environment is like for its employees, they will be able to discuss with you the ways in which these standards could be implemented at your worksites to best help your organisation achieve its goals. Is there anything less risky than that?
Please click here to learn more about the benefits business’ stand to gain by migrating to these standards ASAP.