Safety and Wellbeing (often also known as Occupational Health and Safety) relies on a combination of a strong policy framework and a commitment by business owners and leaders to people and safety for a successful and a safe work environment. Every work environment, regardless of industry, has risks that need to be assessed and managed. Having an emphasis on culture change and supported with easily accessed and uncomplicated processes and systems will assist in controlling business risk and leads to improved employee effectiveness, engagement and most importantly, their safety and wellbeing.

What are the dangers of not managing safety and wellbeing effectively?

Safety within Australia is managed around a high requirement for compliance underpinned by extensive laws and regulations. Every workplace is subject to the legal requirements of the state relevant occupational health and safety legislation and the regulations and processes that support the enforcement of the relevant laws.

Various state and federal authorities oversee the effectiveness of these laws and regulations and where safety and wellbeing programs are not properly managed or even non-existent, prosecution is highly likely. The various Courts have shown they are quite prepared to deal with non-compliance with heavy fines and even jail terms for business operators, owners and managers. In addition to this, the process of prosecution is conducted in public and business reputation can often be damaged when prosecutions take place.

What are the key areas in best practice ‘safety and wellbeing management’?

Some of the key areas of safety and wellbeing include:

– Safe work practices and routines

– Workers compensation and return to work

– Early intervention and injury management

– Risk assessments/site inspections

– Safety management systems

– Management/employee awareness training

– Policy/procedure review and creation

– Emergency preparedness

‘Compliance Approach’ versus ‘Strategic Approach’

When Safety and Wellbeing within an organisation only focuses on the above items in isolation, we view this as adopting a ‘’compliance approach’. Whilst this is a common sense approach, it demands substantial levels of resourcing and controls to ensure it effectiveness.

Safety and wellbeing is more effective if ‘strategic outcomes’ are the key drivers for its management in a workplace. For example, creating a culture of working safely in all circumstances translate into an employee being conscious of safety both at work and at home. This results in a greater focus on safe work practices and a desire to minimise workplace risks and hazards. This approach also has the benefit of moving towards constant improvements and enhanced efficiencies through process improvement actions and the resultant potential to reduce costs.

Moving from a compliance approach to a strategic approach for safety and wellbeing

A suggested strategic framework for safety and wellbeing contains the following five review, planning and implementation stages:

1. Having top management commitment and having a policy – Key to the success of a safety and wellbeing program, regardless of whether it has a compliance or strategic focus, is senior management support and sponsorship of the program. This support guides and influences decisions about workplace health and safety. To extend this support further the business needs to develop a safety and wellbeing policy framed around measurable objectives and targets of improved safety management. The policy aim is to cement the senior management support and to sponsor communication and implementation of a program to create a safe work environment.

2. Planning – To optimise effective implementation, a health and safety plan with objectives and targets which includes controls and a reporting framework needs to be developed. This framework enables hazards/risks arising from work activities to be identified and minimised. Ideally, a well developed and managed framework can lead to risk elimination.

3. Implementation – As with any program, sound implementation is key. The aim of the implementation is to show the senior management support and to afford full visibility of the program, with its processes and controls, to all employees. This stage is often best supported with workshops where all aspect of the safety and wellbeing program are introduced and employees are given an opportunity to ask questions and to validate their understanding of the program. This approach also assists to ensure employees understand the alignment of the safety and wellbeing program to all business goals and activities.

4. Measurement and Evaluation – To assess the effectiveness of the program and to allow for improvement targets to be established, a business will need to establish the necessary tools and reporting process to be able to measure, monitor, escalate and evaluate their health and safety processes.

5. Review and Improvement – The final stage is largely continuous and allows a business to continually improve safety management processes and systems demonstrating compliance with legal requirements and enhancing business reputation. There is strong research which confirms that clear positive links between good safety and wellbeing management, worker compensation management systems leads to long-term business efficiency.

What are some benefits of having a well developed and managed safety and wellbeing system and culture?

A business with a well developed and managed safety and wellbeing program will be characterised by the following:

– having a mature culture of caring for and protecting employees with a purpose of becoming an “employer of choice”

– helping to create safer work environments – both at work and at home

– reducing injuries and injury-related costs – this occurs through businesses saving money on medical expenses, the injured employee’s wages, insurance claim excesses, replacement labour and workers’ compensation insurance premium reviews

– improving safety and wellbeing business opportunities – making sure that procurement activities are with like-minded organisations; that is, suppliers that also have a strong focus on safety and wellbeing and striving to be good corporate citizens

– providing measurable systems that can verify systems performance

– demonstrating compliance with legal requirements, and

– enhancing the business’ reputation

Businesses with mature and well established safety and wellbeing programs will have a strong team culture where employees are engaged and contributing at optimal levels, will have processes in place to care for their employees and their families, maximise employee retention through reduced labour turnover and benefit from efficiencies and effectiveness with improved profitability.

Please note that the above information is provided as comment and should not be relied on as a substitute for detailed professional advice.