Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) requirements, previously, Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S), can affect businesses differently depending on which industries they operate in. As an employer you are responsible for the WHS, its laws are there to protect you, your employees and the public from workplace dangers. However, managing health and safety doesn’t have to be complicated, costly or time-consuming. In general, WHS laws apply to all businesses but the approach you take should be proportionate to the size of your business and the nature of your business activity.

How can you promote a culture of positive WHS?

Regardless of the size of a company, it is important that business owners are fully informed of the relevant WHS requirements. They must understand their role in governing the health and safety of a workforce, whilst ensuring that legal responsibilities are being met as employers. Employees must also act in a responsible manner and co-operate with their employer in order to comply with the laws set out by the Government.

Guarding welfare and reputation

As well as complying with the law, companies will want to protect their reputation from any adverse publicity a serious accident would bring. Business owners will also wish to avoid undue pressure from employees, trade unions and customers due to poor safety and health management.

Therefore, having an effective health and safety strategy is a crucial element of a modern organisation’s corporate social responsibilities. There are financial benefits that can be gained by implementing effective policies, such as reduced insurance premiums, reduced re-training costs when illness or injury occurs, staff retention and increased productivity when using safe operating procedures.

Uphold core values and standards

In setting up policies, a company must understand the importance that health and safety performance plays in the overall running of any business. In accepting corporate responsibility for the wellbeing of its workforce, company owners need to take a proactive approach and develop a positive health and safety culture for its employees. This can be achieved by ensuring health and safety is an integral part of the management process.

It has been documented that, under conditions of pressure, employees are more likely to discount the risks associated with violating safety rules in order to meet production targets. This can be avoided by promoting and rewarding good health and safety behaviour in the workplace. This will also will also help assist in creating a positive culture of shared responsibility and integrity.

Why WHS is everyone’s responsibility

Carry out regular workplace-specific risk assessments to identify potential dangers. Once an initial assessment has been carried out, create a safety statement, setting out detailed responsibilities for every tier of management and employees. Describing how you will manage health and safety in your business, will also let your staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety.

The statement is the foundation on which you will build and implement a health and safety policy. Consult with employees and encourage open communication in its planning to assess the nature and range of hazards and the risks that may arise. Provide training and information, monitor the suitability, replacement and maintenance of equipment used for safety processes.

WHS is an ongoing process; by learning, adapting and working together, companies can help minimise the risk of major incidents.