What you need to know about work health and safety

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All Australian workplaces to make health and safety compliance a priority. Regardless of the size of your business – no business is immune. One incident can have huge consequences, both in lives and dollars.

Understandably, the problem many Australian businesses face when it comes to health and safety is knowing where to start. Unfortunately, EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) is too often viewed as confusing, costly, and at times an inconvenience when running a business.

Importantly, a new International Safety Standard (ISO 45001) is being developed that will become the new benchmark for Australia – and many local companies are not aware of its existence. Whether you’re a beginner who needs to be better prepared, or working in a company where confusion reigns, here are a few tips to help improve health and safety compliance in your business.

1. Ask an expert
Knowledge is power when it comes to EHS. Time poor and under-resourced small businesses are especially vulnerable to non-compliance because they simply don’t know who to contact.

One of the best ways to know where your business fits is to enlist a consultant to hold your hand through the process. There are thousands of qualified EHS consultants within Australia, and many specialise in particular industries. Your local industry body or union should be able to put you in touch with someone relevant to what you do, whether you own a clothing store, a café or a construction business.

Most consultants charge hourly, and often a short initial visit will do wonders in helping you understand what needs to be improved. Look for consultants who are using the latest cloud-based EHS technologies and can set you up with a user-friendly management system. Think of them like accountants – you might only see them a couple of times a year, but that personal touch and expertise is worth it for peace of mind.

2. Get to know the new international standard
Very soon ‘ISO 45001’ will be the new benchmark standard for safety in Australia and internationally. It sounds technical, but Google it and you’ll find plenty of information. ISO 45001 is intended for use by any organisation, regardless of its size or the nature of its work, and can be integrated into other health and safety programs such as worker wellness and wellbeing. In reality, it’s unlikely there will be many significant changes to current standards such as AS4801, but it’s a good idea to subscribe to news feeds from organisations such as Workplace OHS to ensure you’re up to date.

3. Choose your EHS system carefully
Many businesses make the mistake of keeping a generic or outdated safety management system that doesn’t work for them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. However, it does needs to be current, appropriate and cover the bases your business needs to comply and most importantly protect you and your workers (if you have any). Working with a consultant who can deliver good advice about the systems and technology that will meet the demands and requirements of your business is imperative. It is money well spent and the benefits and efficiencies in the business will be significant.

4. Take advantage of new technology
Gone are the days of ten different policies and complex spreadsheets. Like other industries such as accounting, recruitment or customer service, best of breed technologies are making EHS far simpler and cost-effective to manage.

Today there are several cloud and mobile EHS solutions available to businesses of any size across any industry. Vault Intelligence and Safety Culture for example, provide apps that enable staff members to take a photo of a hazard or incident, sending it directly to you.

Technology today allows you to gain greater participation from staff and keeps your business compliant and safe.  Smart systems and a commitment to doing the right thing, are key to protecting your workers and your business in 2017.

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David Moylan
David Moylan is the former Director of Safety and Risk for the Australian Army and Founder of leading provider of cloud based Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) software company Vault Intelligence.

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