According to the 2017 Employsure Workplace Safety Index, 81% of small to medium businesses (SME) don’t have a full understanding their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) requirements; one in three rely on Google for this information; and almost half (45%) acknowledge that there is more that they could do to actively implement their workplace health and safety plan.
 
With time, resources and expertise in such short supply, some aspects of OHS can easily be overlooked, impacting employee wellbeing and business performance. Here are three areas worth keeping on your radar.
 
Keeping sick people away from work
 
This cold and flu season is shaping up to be a killer – if you haven’t already had the sniffles (or worse), chances are you know someone who has. As well as rendering people feeling poorly – workplace sickness has an enormous impact on business productivity and profitability. In 2017 one study reported sick leave as costing Australian SMEs an average of $20,000 each year.
 
Having a plan in place to manage the spread of illness will reduce the financial burden of sick leave and improve the health and productivity of your workforce this winter.
 
One reason why sick leave is so costly to Australian businesses is the rapid spread of highly contagious illnesses – like colds and flu – within the workplace. So whilst letting sick people soldier on may seem like a good idea, keeping contagious people away from work can quickly stop the spread of illness and have a far more positive effect on productivity.
 
Most employers know that they can ask for medical certificates from staff taking sick leave, but did you know that employers are also within their rights to compel people to stay away from work if there is a genuine risk of illness spreading?
 
It is worth noting that these rules are for contagious illness, and do not apply to serious diseases or conditions (like cancer or mental health issues) – so businesses may benefit from consulting an HR professional in designing sick leave policies.
 
Preventing noise induced hearing loss
 
We recently encouraged Australian businesses to take better care of their eyes. Next we turn to ears…
 
Repeated exposure to moderate noise levels and occasional exposure to very loud noise can cause the loss or reduction of hearing – with occupational noise accounting for roughly 10% of adult-onset hearing loss. In addition to the social and personal impact of hearing loss, in 2017 the Hearing Care Industry Association estimated that hearing loss also costs the Australian economy $33.3 billion (financially and through the loss of wellbeing).
 
Construction is considered to be one of the three industries most susceptible to noise-induced hearing. Ideally businesses in these industries would eliminate all sources of excessive noise – but this isn’t always possible.
 
When the use of noisy equipment is unavoidable, this risk can be reduced by:
  • Enforcing the use of adequate hearing protection (ear plugs and muffs)
  • Replacing noisy machinery with quieter equipment
  • Separating or isolating noisy equipment from other areas within the workplace
  • Fitting engineered noise reduction solutions (mufflers, noise guards and enclosures
  • Scheduling tasks on noisy equipment for when fewer employees are on site.
  • Personal protective equipment – that fits

Personal protective equipment – that fits
 
If you’ve ever had to wear ill-fitting safety gloves, goggles, boots, harnesses or high visibility vests, you can probably relate to what many women go through on worksites across Australia every single day.
 
Supplying male dominated industries, PPE was historically designed and purchased with men in mind – but as we all know men and women can differ greatly in dimensions. Fitting your workforce with appropriate PPE is an important part of keeping people safe, because if PPE doesn’t fit properly it probably isn’t working properly.
 
Highlighting the importance of this issue, global construction group Skanska recently partnered with two PPE manufacturers to design a range of vests and gloves just for Skanska female employees worldwide. Will other construction companies follow suit? Could this be a growing focus for workplace safety in 2019? 
 
Which aspects of workplace health and safety are most important to your business? Are there some areas you can’t prioritise? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn..
 

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