Every organisation has a duty of care to its workers to some degree, both ethically and legislatively.
For those industries with mandatory work health and safety (WHS) laws applied, it can be a minefield to keep on top of this, particularly with the changing work environments meaning organisations are now challenged to support mobile workers within environments that may be outside of your control.
With that in mind, what are the main factors to be aware of when developing your WHS protocols?
Who are you responsible for?
WHS laws are not subject solely to full-time employees of your organisation, but also for contractors and volunteers. It’s important to ensure protocols are put in place and made accessible to all people working on your projects to create a workplace safety message that becomes part of your organisation’s culture.
Consider the channels for reaching your employees on this matter, such as digital newsletters and online web pages. Training that highlights potential hazards and how to mitigate these should also be an essential component. It’s also an idea to review these regularly to take into account any changes in your working environment that may affect these.
Be proactive, not reactive
Don’t wait for an incident to occur before putting regulations in place. Many accidents can be avoided if a detailed hazard risk assessment is conducted that takes into consideration the environments your workers will be placed in – both on and off-site – and how you mitigate these risks and respond should anything occur.
Understand what constitutes WHS compliance
Workplace Health and Safety extends from physical safety to the mental health of your workers, so ensuring your WHS protocols are not just centred around more obvious physical challenges – such as machinery and chemicals – is important. Fatigue management is a big one for contractors who may be working multiple or long shifts – a mining employee recently won over $1 million in damages for having a car accident when tasked with a five-hour drive after conducting four consecutive 12-hour night shifts. In a more extreme case, a recent court case ruled that the opening of an email that contained bad news causing distress qualified as a workplace injury.
Mobile workers need additional support
If your employees are working out in the community, in a remote environment, travelling internationally or conducting a lot of driving – there will be many new and variable hazards to be aware of. With many of these being outside of your control, you will need to identify the risks and ensure you have managed these to a reasonable extent. A good suggestion is to ensure all workers complete travel risk assessments before undertaking any journeys to get a gage on fatigue levels and other potential hazards. Journey management tools, like JESI, will enable you to immediately notify workers of incidents in a community they may be in or travelling to, plus receive instant alerts should a worker not check in at a scheduled point so that quick action can take place.
For more information on WHS requirements, we recommend checking out: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/model-whs-laws/guidance/volunteers/pages/organisation-needs-organsations