How safe is your small business?

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When running a small business you are bound to experience workplace injuries and mental health issues. If they aren’t high on your agenda, they should be. Statistics from SafeWork Australia indicate that the total economic cost of workplace injury on businesses nationally sits at over $61.8 billion per year, which equates to a mind-blowing 4.1% of GDP. And more troubling still is the cost to the individuals directly involved.

The impact on mental health
Research shows that being out of work increases psychological conditions, decreases general well-being and physical health and, ultimately, increases mortality rates by 20%. Families without a working member are more likely to suffer persistent low income and poverty and children of these families also have poorer health outcomes.

Coupled with this is the strain placed on you, business owners, who support their employees through injury. No employer sets out to harm their employees, but the repercussions of an illness or injury can be hard felt for the average small business owner trying to keep their business going with a reduced workforce.

Where a fulfilling work life is considered arguably the most effective way to improve the wellbeing of individuals, their families and their communities, there is also strong evidence to support the notion that a prolonged loss of work whether it be an on-site accident or redundancy, it can severely harm both physical and mental health.

What can you do about it?
People are diverse and unpredictable. A fact of life that makes workplaces, by nature, rapidly changeable spaces. It also makes managing workplace safety both exceptionally important and exceptionally challenging in equal measure, demanding a mix of preventative procedures to safeguard employees against work-related illness or injury in the first place, and responsive actions to minimise the impact should the worst happen.

Cost of workplace injury ? more than $61.8 Billion annually!

Get psychological help
A really great psychological service provider will be able to help you resolve any people-related questions you may have, like whether a person with a mental health difficulty is ‘fit for work’ or how best to manage employees with mental health conditions. They’ll also be able to provide effective psychological treatment for workers, through a mix of clinical, registered and organisational psychologists who use recovery-focused, work-oriented treatment. Look for a provider who only uses AHPRA-registered psychologists, offers a wide range of services and guarantees a fast response rate.

Conduct safety audits
Carry them out regularly to identify in advance the potential areas that may pose both physical and mental health risks.

Educate your staff
A company-wide understanding across issues including appropriate manual handling, safe behaviours and psychological resilience can minimise illness and injury.

What are your legal obligations?
1. You are obligated to have workers’ compensation insurance for anyone you employ to cover the costs of lost earnings, medical treatment and workplace rehabilitation assistance.
2. You must also establish an internal process for dealing with injury or illness caused by work, which ensure the individual in question receives appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible.
3. Regardless of your claim’s status, you must continue to pay your employee’s entitlements such as annual sick leave.
4. Employers may not terminate the worker’s employment citing the injury as a reason for the termination, for a minimum of 6 months from the date of injury.


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Anya Stephens
Anya is the Managing Director at PeopleSense, which provides injury management and employee assistance programs to organisations throughout Australia. PeopleSense won 2016 Telstra WA Business of the Year.

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