Occupational health and safety (OHS) in the workplace is both a right and responsibility of every business owner.
All businesses have the duty to ensure that employees, customers, volunteers, visitors and the public, who may be affected by the organisation’s activities remain safe at all times. It is important that you understand the laws regarding OHS to avoid unnecessary expenses and damages caused by workplace injuries, diseases, and fatalities.
OHS laws and employer’s responsibilities
Government authorities have the obligation to enact work health & safety legislation and regulations. Each state and territory has a principal OHS Act and under that law, it is the responsibility of employers to make sure that:
- The working premises are safe and secure
- Working environment and facilities are appropriate to employees
- Any goods, substances, equipment are safe to use or handle
- Workers are given right training and instruction on health and safety
Working on your OHS
First, you should assign an employee as your OHS officer and ensure that the other employees know that he is designated as the one in charge of OHS in the workplace. Proper training should be given to the OHS officer.
Supervisors and managers should be knowledgeable on how to secure safe working premises for their employees and how to keep workloads bearable for them.
Minimising workplace injuries
- Maintain comfort and cleanliness such as providing clean working premises, adequate lighting, and proper ventilation. You should also deal with any hazards promptly. Reduce risks of slippery floor surfaces, trailing cables, exposed hot surfaces and excessive noise.
- Make sure of proper storage, regular cleaning and maintenance of all equipment, tools and machinery. These should be used only for their specific purpose, and any malfunctions should be promptly reported and fixed.
- Provide first-aid supplies. The minimum businesses are required to provide a correctly stocked first-aid box, a person appointed to take charge of first-aid management and information for staff on first-aid arrangements. You should keep a report log of all accidents or illnesses that happen to your employees during working hours.
- Ensure there is a proper procedure in emergency cases for the protection of staff, customers, clients, visitors, and children. You should at least have a smoke detector, alarm, fire extinguisher and evacuation plan.
- Educate employees on how to avoid hazards in the workplace. Make sure employees have the safety equipment necessary to do their jobs and understand the importance of regularly using it.
Assessing the potential risks that might cause harm in the workplace is called risk management. How can you reduce the risk of workplace accidents and injuries?
- Observe, examine, and inspect the current working environment in your business and list any potential hazards.
- Evaluate the level of risk of each hazard and give careful attention based on the assessed harm it may cause
- Decide on control measures to eliminate or at least reduce the potential risks of the hazard.
- Establish use of control measures, communicate it with the organisation and ensure that control measures are maintained.
- Review regularly the control measures and make changes if needed.
Active communication and participation of your employees are highly acknowledged as they are directly affected by any decision on your business’ health and safety rules. Consultation will make your workers share their thoughts, experiences and suggestions for changes and improvement. Often they can see risks or issues that you may fail to notice. Through this open communication, the organisation will benefit as a whole.
- Identify the legal responsibilities applicable to your business in your state. If available, ask advice from an independent expert.
- Contact the related OHS agency for advice, training and information on implementing safety measures into your business.
- Assess risks in your workplace.
- Ensure that all employees are knowledgeable on ways of reducing workplace risks injuries.
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James HuyVuong is a CPA and the owner of Your Accounting Partners. Partnering with businesses from start to scale thru to sale.